USPS Approved Mailboxes - FAQ

3-Gang Vertical Mailbox - USPS Approved
3-Gang Vertical Mailbox - USPS Approved
Detail - Private Owner Mailbox Lock
Detail - Private Owner Mailbox Lock
Detail - USPS Lock
Detail - USPS Lock

Frequently Asked Questions

These questions and answers apply to multi-unit mailboxes in the United States, such as the one pictured at right.

Q: I lost my mailbox key. Can I get a new mailbox key from the Post Office?

A: No, you cannot get a new mailbox key from the Post Office. The Post Office owns the USPS lock located usually in the middle of the bank of boxes (see illustration at right). The individual box locks and the keys that fit them are owned by the landlord, condo association, coop, or individual condo owner.

Q. How can I get a new mailbox key?

B. There are a couple of ways you can get a new mailbox key.

  1. You can hire a locksmith to replace your mailbox lock.
  2. You can work with your mail delivery person to get the code number off of the back of your lock. A locksmith can cut a key using this code. Getting a key cut by code usually costs a fraction of what it costs for a locksmith service call.

    In order to get the code number, you will need a mirror and a flashlight. When the mail delivery person comes, they will open the bank of mailboxes. You will be able to reach down into your mailbox with the mirror, shine the flashlight, and read the number from from the back of the lock. Be sure to have a piece of paper and a pen so you can write it down!

Q. I am building a multi-unit dwelling and will purchase a bank of mailboxes. How do I get the USPS Lock?

A. After you install the mailboxes, call the manager of the Post Office that serves the zip code in which your building is located and request to have a postal lock put in. The manager will arrange for a USPS technician to come out and install the USPS lock.

Q. Can I get mailbox locks keyed alike, or master keyed?

A. Postal regulations require that locks in the same bank of mailboxes be keyed differently. No USPS approved mailbox locks are master keyed.

Q. I want to improve the security of my building by locking the vestibule, but the mailboxes are in the vestibule, inside the outer front door. How will I give access to the mail delivery person?

A. You can put an electric strike on the outer front door, and have that electric strike activated by a switch that is operated by a postal lock. Or you can install a metal box, called a postal key keeper, that is locked with a postal lock and contains a key to the outer front door. After you install the postal switch or key keeper, contact the manager of your Post Office to arrange to have the postal lock installed.

In the case of the key keeper:

  1. Install the key keeper
  2. Have the Postal lock installed
  3. Give your key to the mail carrier so that they can put it inside the key keeper.

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Comments 53 comments

Lisa blake 7 years ago

I had found a key on the street of park ave n westwood n.j.

How do i find out what offic this key belongs to so I can drop it off?

There are numbers on the key is there a way to find out what town it belongs to?


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

If the key is an original mailbox key that came with the mailbox lock, then it may have a code number on it that identifies how the key was cut, but not its location. I would say that it would be pretty unlikely that you would ever find out where it belonged. On the other hand, if it says, "Property of U.S. Postal Service" or anything like that, you can simply bring it to any post office or throw it in any U.S. Mail collection box.


Nick 6 years ago

I'm not sure if this is true for all areas, but when I first moved in I did not have a mailbox key. After a few phone calls, I found out the USPS could change it. Might want to call and verify this but it seemed like standard practice when I talked to them.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 6 years ago from United States Author

Changing a mailbox lock is not rocket science. The USPS personnel who service the government locks are certainly skilled enough and could easily do it, but to do so they might be competing with local locksmiths or other tradespeople. I am not sure, but that may be against postal service policy. I would think that the local Post Office Manager would have a lot to say about it.


melanie 6 years ago

I'm not sure where you got this information, but I've lived in two apartments where the post office held the keys for the individual mailboxes. The landlord had nothing to do with it. As a tenant, you needed to take your least to the post office, and then they would give you the key to the box. This also holds true for replacement keys.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 6 years ago from United States Author

I got my information during my 6 years as a locksmith and subsequent 11 years as owner of a locksmith company in Boston. The United States Postal Service may behave differently in other cities, although today I work as a salesman for a distribution company that sells, among other things, mailboxes and mailbox locks nationwide. Everywhere I have sold mailboxes, the USPS has behaved as described above. I have never heard of the post office holding keys for mailboxes on property the USPS did not actually own.

Neither of us can verify the truth of the other's reality. We may have stumbled on a universal truth.


MS 6 years ago

According to http://www.usps.com/receive/mailboxstandards.htm:

"the Postal Service may authorize Cluster Box Units (CBU) with collection compartments and parcel lockers for use in business and residential delivery areas, and may in some instances elect to purchase, install, maintain, or replace them."

Looks like both melanie and Tom Rubenoff are correct.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 6 years ago from United States Author

Very nice. Why didn't I think of going there? Thank you, MS. :)


Jim 6 years ago

I have a condo in Boston (Allston)where there's a standard multi-unit mail box in the lobby for all condos in the building. My tenant has broken the door to his mail box and lost it (!), now I have to replace it and the condo association does not want to get involved. Would the USPS provide replacement parts?


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 6 years ago from United States Author

Hi Jim. You can contact the manager of the post office in your zip code to see if his technicians do those repairs, or you can call a locksmith. Replacement doors are usually available from the mailbox manufacturer. Usually you can find the manufacturer's name above or below the postal lock. Search the manufacturer's name online and find their web site. On the site you can find contact info or a list of distributors that sell their products. Feel free to contact me by email through this site and I will help you.


LIsa 5 years ago

Who is responsible to replace the service lock on a cluster box located in an apartment complex? And where can they be purchased if one is needed?


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 5 years ago from United States Author

Hi Lisa. I believe you are referring to the lock that opens the entire gang of mailboxes. Check out the "Private Owner" lock and "USPS" lock illustrations above. If the lock that needs replacing looks like the "USPS" lock that has a big slot, when I was in business years ago this lock was not for sale anywhere and available only through the post office. Contact the manager your local Post Office. However, if it looks like the "Private Owner" lock, then your mailboxes were built for private mail distribution and some individual, usually a trustee or property manager, would be responsible for the lock. If the problem turns out to be not with the lock but with the mailbox unit, whoever manages the apartment complex would be responsible. I hope you find this advice helpful.


Walter 5 years ago

The mailboxes in my apartment complex were left open, I tried calling the local P.O. but nobody answered. Is there another number I can call? I need to reach the Arcata Ca P.O.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 5 years ago from United States Author

If the private owner mailboxes that were left open, the Post Office may or may not have anything to do with that. That may be the responsibility of the apartment complex manager. If the postal lock is left open, that may be a problem for the Post Office, or it could be that the bank of boxes is worn out or damaged, and then again, that may be the responsibility of the apartment complex manager.

In any case you would want to speak to the manager of the Post Office for your zip code. If you can't get them on the phone, then you should go there and find the manager. The manager would be able to definitively tell you what the Post Office can or cannot do for you.

According to the USPS, there are 5 post offices that service Arcata. You will need to find the one that delivers mail to your address.


ronald Freeland 5 years ago

Hi; how do we find a usps approved locksmith that can provide us with a key for our mail box. We have not moved in yet and need this done sooner than later so that our 'Hold' mail can be delivered?


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 5 years ago from United States Author

In my city locksmiths need not be USPS approved to provide keys for individual mailboxes that are not actually inside a U.S. Post Office. I suggest you call or visit the postmaster for the post office that serves your zip code for the most relevant advice.


Jeannine 5 years ago

Hello Tom:

I live in Miami, Fl 33161 in an apartment complex. Lately I have been unable to access my mailbox (lock does not work) and as a result, my mails are returned to sender. I tried talking to the apartment manager but was ignored. What should I do?

Thank you for your prompt reply.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 5 years ago from United States Author

Before anything else, I would try lubricating the lock with a little silicone based spray lubricant - VERY LITTLE. Put your key in and out a couple of times and then try it. If that doesn't work, try to be there when the mail delivery person comes. While s/he has the bank of boxes open, you will be able to see if there is an obstruction preventing the lock from working. A box of checks from your bank or other small box will often cause this. If so, your problem might be solved by removing it.

If nothing works, you can either hire a locksmith to repair your mailbox or get a mailbox off premise, either at a post office or at a mailbox rental place.

I hope one of these ideas works for you.


nat 5 years ago

there is only one guy at usps office who "takes care" of keys. he wants to charge me $20 for a key!


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 5 years ago from United States Author

I don't know what's up with that. Are these keys for mailboxes inside the post office that the post office rents to the public? Is the $20 a price for a key, or is it a key deposit?


claudia 5 years ago

Hi! I live in apartments.but I lost my keys from the mail box.I was wondering how much does it cost to get new keys.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 5 years ago from United States Author

Hi Claudia! It depends on how you go about getting new keys. The first thing you should do is contact your landlord or management company to see if they have an extra key for you. If that doesn't work, you could try to get a key cut for you by a locksmith.

Your mailbox lock may have a number on the back. If so, a locksmith may be able to cut a key based on the number. You can see the number by arranging to meet the mail delivery person. When they come to deliver the mail, you can use a mirror and a flashlight to see the back of your lock to see if there is a number there - or, if you are good with tools, you might be able to remove the lock. If you can remove the lock, you can bring it to a locksmith and buy a replacement.

If you cannot get the number from the lock or remove the lock, then you may have to pay a locksmith to come out, break into your mailbox and replace the lock.


chris 5 years ago

Good morning Tom. I am a Property Manager at a self storage facility in South Florida. I am interested in having PO boxes installed on-site for the many small business owners I have as tenants. I believe it would make for a more convenient location for them to have their mail sent. So, after extensive research with no luck, I stumbled upon this thread. I figured you would be the man to ask, "How do I go about acquiring the permitting, the installation of the boxes and the rules & regulations for renting suck PO boxes out?"

Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Kind Regards, Chris


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 5 years ago from United States Author

Search for mailboxes online and acquaint yourself with the kind of USPS approved mailboxes you want. Then search online for someone who sells those boxes. Any good contractor can install them. When they are about be installed, call your local postmaster to arrange to have the postal locks installed.


Shellyjean@comcast.net 5 years ago

I'm moving to an apt complex an want to know when they give me my mailbox keys do they me all three keys that come with the new lock or are they allowed to keep one. I feel that I should be the only one with a key to my box! Keeping in mind that if I lose it I would have to pay for a new lock. Sound right what is USPS regs on this if complex owns the boxes.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 5 years ago from United States Author

I think its pretty common for landlords or management companies to keep copies of the mailbox keys as a convenience. I am unaware of any laws prohibiting this, but your local postmaster would know for sure.


Liz 4 years ago

I live in a pre-war co-op building and we had beautiful polished brass mailboxes in the wall. A board member decided he needed a bigger mailbox to handle his business mail and had all the boxes removed and replaced with ugly, clunky mailboxes. He told everyone that the USPS will force us to take them down anyway because they don't meet their code. The old boxes worked just fine and the mailman never complained. Does the Post Office ever mandate that mailboxes be removed?


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

Postmasters in individual zip code areas seem to have a lot of freedom in the way they interpret postal regulations regarding mailboxes, however, in my experience, the post office only gets involved with mailboxes they do not own when the condition of the mailboxes inhibits safe or effective mail delivery. There are regulations regarding box size, but usually these are only enforced when a property is renovated. Personally I have never seen the USPS refuse to deliver mail to existing mailboxes as long as the doors and locks all work, and there is no danger to postal workers because of mailbox condition.

The USPS cannot make anyone take down their mailboxes. They can only refuse to deliver the mail to them.


Jessica 4 years ago

Hi, i was renting on netflix, and everything is working great, but my nearest collection box is about 3 miles away and im only 14. I dont have a mailbox, but i have one of these lock boxes. Theres an opening in between them, and it looks as if its made for taking mail. Can i send mail though there?


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

This is really a question for the Postal Service, Jessica, but I can tell you that in my neighborhood, if we leave mail on top of our bank of mailboxes in the vestibule, the mail carrier will take it for us. I suggest that you could ask your mail carrier if there is someplace you could leave your Netflix return so that they would pick it up.


Will 4 years ago

Hi Tom, I am a locksmith in the Charlotte NC area. I just had a customer call me asking about having the actual postal lock (the one the mailman uses to open all of the boxes) replaced on a mailbox unit for an apartment complex. The lock was damaged by a foreign object being inserted into the keyway and has been removed. The customer told me that he called the Postal Service and they told him since it was his property that it was his responsibility to replace the lock, but that seems to be the opposite of what I have read... Do you know who is truly responsible for the lock, and also, if it is not replaced by the postal service, where I could find a replacement? All that I keep in stock are the locks for individual boxes.. Thanks.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

It sounds to me as if the Post Office was confused as to which lock your customer was talking about. But a sure way to clear up the mystery would be to call the Postmaster at the Post Office that serves the zip code area in which the mailbox is located. When I was a locksmith, only Postal Service techs worked on the government lock in a bank of mailboxes.


Amanda 4 years ago

Hello! I live in an Apartment in Colorado and recently a new tenant moved into the building and were told their box number was my box. The complex didn't do any research first, they just pried my box open and replaced the lock. They didn't notify me that this had happened, and I don't know if anything was removed, how long it was without a lock etc. Also the door looks as if it was pried open. Could this be a problem I could face with the Post Office?


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

While the final word is from the Postmaster in the Post Office that serves your zip code, in my experience the Postal Service does not care what your mailbox looks like as long as it is secure (i.e. the door locks so that the mail does not fall out) and it is not dangerous to the mail delivery person (sharp edges, etc.).


Tom B 4 years ago

I moved into a condo in ATL. I was told that the Postmaster should handle all lock changes. I called to verify my box number and went into the local PO and paid $28 to have a new lock put on with 3 keys given to me.


Andrew G 4 years ago

Hey, my key is not going all the way into the lock. What should I do? I figure I have to get it replaced but how much does that usually cost? Any help is greatly appreciated.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

First you should try lubricating the lock. Squirt a little silicone spray lubricant in the keyhole. If that doesn't clear up the problem, you may have to replace the lock.


Sidney robertson 4 years ago

I have a question. I live in a 8 story building with a multi unit mail box group. ( Individual boxes) I want to have a copy of my mail box key made for my unit. Is it unlawful too just have one made. Or are you required by law to go thru your building mang or mang company. I've always been told it was against the law for an individual too have Copys made. Can you give me a link too the laws on this matter?


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

I believe that the only key that it would be illegal to copy or even to have without authorization is the key the postal delivery person uses to open the entire bank of mailboxes to deliver the mail. I have never heard of any law that prohibits the duplication of common mailbox keys. Your building or management company may have rules concerning mailbox keys, but these are not laws. I do not think it is against the law for you to have copies of your own mailbox key made.


jayn3333 4 years ago

Wanted to know if we can instal a keyless (keypad) entry lock on our outside gate. Our mailboxes are just inside our gate. We've had no problem with our carrier, she is great, but need to secure our gate as we are having people using our property as a thoroughfare. We have 5 bungalows on the same piece of land and we need to be safe and secure. Called the postoffice for over 50 minutes, it has given the busy signal the entire time. The 800 number can only give us the phone number to our local usps, they can't help with the issue. Anyone know or have alternative solutions


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

You can install a key switch operated by the mail carrier's postal key wired into your keypad's request to exit contacts. Then the mail carrier can simply buzz themselves in. Many low voltage specialists like intercom installers are familiar with this very basic technology. The switch is operated by a lock that the US Postal Service must provide, so you will need to contact the Postmaster of your zip code to arrange to have the postal lock installed into the key switch, or perhaps your installer can arrange this.


jmaxwell3333@yahoo.com 4 years ago

thanks Tom, I'll investigate...still no luck calling usps, guess I'll have to go in person and line up to ask the question, but this is good info to take to them.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 4 years ago from United States Author

I've also had the experience that it is difficult to contact the Postmaster by phone, and I have had to go to the post office to seek them out. I wish you good luck with it.


orondo62@hotmail.com 3 years ago

Hello Tom,

The mobile home community I work at is converting from individual mailboxes to cluster locking boxes. We are a community over 300 units, is there a prodecure you could recommend to deliver, document the receipt of same etc...?


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 3 years ago from United States Author

Hi Orondo,

Do you mean documentation and delivery of the cluster mailbox units, or the mail?


Penina D 3 years ago

I am in need of replacement keys for my mailbox...my local post office told me to go anywhere, but could or would not tell me any specific hardware store or locksmith. I went to one of the larger places in town (not a big box store!) and they had the dickens of a time finding the right blank. In the end, they made one key by modifying the closest blank they could find, and it did not work. The original key is a CompX National, stamped 4249PS on the back. Any clues where these blanks are obtained? I could not find them on the CompX National site, and none of their dealers are within 90 miles of me.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 3 years ago from United States Author

4249PS sounds like a legitimate code number - the question is, is it a published code? If it is a published code, most locksmiths that cut keys by code should be able to cut yours. Alternatively, CompX National offers the C8735 and C8730 multi-cam mailbox locks that are adaptable to a almost any mailbox. Available for a very reasonable price online.


AP 2 years ago

Hi, I live in NH and our mailbox lock is broken through no fault of our own. Its a post office box and they said we have to call a locksmith to repair it. 1) As renters is it our responsibility? 2) How much does a locksmith cost? Thank you


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 2 years ago from United States Author

Your mail box is in the the U.S. Post Office? If it is, I do not think it is your responsibility. I think it is the US Postal Service's responsibility. If it is on your landlord's property, I believe it is your landlord's responsibility.

If no one will fix it for you, you may be able to fix it yourself. Mailbox locks are not usually very complicated. To find out what the services of a locksmith will cost, I think you should call a locksmith.


uniqua 2 years ago

I just moved in my townhome ..and im just receiving a mailbox key ...but how do I know which mailbox my key is assigned to??

Im sure my mailbox is full


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 2 years ago from United States Author

Unfortunately there is usually no easy or sure way to identify which mailbox is yours if the box itself is not engraved with your unit number unless you actually try your key in all of them until you find the box it fits. Usually individual mailboxes within a bank of mailboxes are arranged in a logical way. For example, the mailbox for Unit 1 would be located in the upper left hand corner. If you lived in Unit 5, counting to the fifth mailbox from left to right, row by row, might find your mailbox for you. Similarly you might find your mailbox located relative to the way your townhome is located relative to other townhomes in your complex. Good luck!


Irvin Watson profile image

Irvin Watson 6 weeks ago from Mainland, Western Australia, Australia

Excellent resource. Thank you!


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 6 weeks ago from United States Author

Thank you.

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