More than 26 million people reported having their packages stolen right in front of their door last year, and it’s become so common there’s a name for it: porch pirates. To combat this, many residential communities are taking package matters into their own hands by accepting them on behalf of their tenants by establishing an inbound package management system
But what happens when packages aren’t even safe in the front office? Should the community be legally liable for lost packages they accept on a resident’s behalf? It’s a growing topic and an increasing worry among consumers, largely because it’s not a black and white issue, so we thought we could provide some clarification!
Can a Residential Community Be Held Liable for Package Loss?
When you have a package stolen or lost, the first priority is usually getting a replacement. Most consumers reach out directly to the company they ordered from to seek resolution. However, doing so does little to tackle the root of the problem.
Consumers get shipping and delivery notifications via email, so they know exactly when a package was left for them. But when they’re unable to place hands on that package, it’s hard to blame the logistics provider itself for the mix up.
Granted, there are several ways a package can get misplaced. For front offices that accept bulk deliveries, they don’t often account for each package before signing off on the delivery. In some cases, the package may have gotten scanned prior to unloading it from the truck and accidentally overlooked. Also, front offices may have no system or organization when it comes to turning over packages to their owners. Without good record keeping, someone could have picked up the package (by mistake or on purpose) and leave you wondering where it is.
But is the community responsible for the well-being of resident inbound package management?
The simple answer is: it’s complicated.
Because policies regarding package delivery and acceptance can vary between communities, there is no single-best answer. For example, some communities request tenants to sign over permission to accept their packages, and in doing so, the community waives their responsibility in case the package gets lost, damaged, or stolen. Other policies (or lack thereof) may also determine the community’s level of liability.
In some cases, you could be held liable for lost or stolen packages if you accept them on a tenant’s behalf. Without the right policies in place, you could be leaving yourself vulnerable. And though a case may not always hold up in court if it gets to that point, it will make for a lengthy (and sometimes expensive) legal process. It can also impact your image as a great place to live, which could affect your occupancy rates.
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What to Do to Reduce or Eliminate Your Liability
Ideally, you’ll reduce your liability in accepting packages before it becomes a problem. Consider the following best practices that will help you ensure a safer package handling process and give your residents peace of mind in the process:
1. Examine Your Package Delivery Protocol
Look at your current package acceptance and delivery processes.
- Do you allow logistics providers to leave packages at individual doors, or do they have to bring all packages to the front office?
- If they leave them in the office, where are packages stored and how are they organized?
- Are packages logged in and manually counted prior to signing off on the delivery?
- How are tenants alerted of package delivery and what does the retrieval process look like? Do you check for IDs and sign out packages, or do you offer a self-service pickup?
There’s a lot that could go wrong in the process, and community managers shouldn’t take this responsibility lightly. Package acceptance may be a courtesy that you offer your residents, but often times there is no alternative. And if you aren’t proactive in protecting parcels entrusted to you, there’s no benefit of this courtesy to your residents.
2. Review Your Tenant Lease Agreement
Some communities require tenants to sign off on the package acceptance policy as part of the lease agreement. Getting their signature ensures they’ve read and understood the policy and know exactly what to expect. In the agreement, you may also waive your legal responsibilities if a package is lost, damaged, or stolen.
If your current tenant lease agreement has no such clause, it might be worthwhile to add it to further reduce your liability. Seek advice from your attorney to ensure the language is accurate and clearly sets the right expectations.
3. Train Your Team
Training can go a long way in ensuring all employees operate by the same set of standards and procedures. Once you define your package acceptance process, go through it with your team to ensure each person understands their role and responsibility. Talk about liability issues and how their attention to detail can help to reduce or eliminate potential legal hurdles.
4. Be Able to Provide Proof
If your resident is disputing a package delivery, one of the easiest ways to help is by providing proof. Taking pictures of arriving packages, documenting package pickup, and having security cameras monitoring package storage areas can show you did your due diligence and encourage your tenant to explore alternate solutions. Not only does it shift the blame away from you, but also puts you in a favorable position with your tenant that you take your responsibility to them seriously.
How Notifii Package Logging App is Solving the Porch Pirate Crisis
Notifii package logging app is changing the way communities accept and distribute packages for their tenants, and reducing their own liability in the process.
The app allows you to log packages as they arrive in seconds to simplify how you collect proof of deliveries. Packages are logged in with a click of a button thanks to our OCR technology and users receive instant notifications when their parcels arrive and ONLY if the package is actually in the office. This way, there’s no question about whether a package made it into your office or if it’s still on the truck.