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Cluster Mailboxes vs. Multi-family Curbside - Which Are Best for Your Community?
As a residential developer or property manager, you have several options for supplying your residents with mail delivery. Two standard options for multiple mailboxes are cluster box units and multi-family curbside units. Although similar, these two types of mailboxes best suit different types of residential communities.
This article explores the cluster mailboxes vs. multi-family curbside mailboxes debate to help you choose the best mailboxes for your community. It explains what each type of mailbox is and the situations it suits best, then answers the most frequently asked questions about community mailboxes.
What Is a Multi-family Curbside Mailbox?
A multi-family curbside mailbox refers to a group of two to four mailboxes mounted on a single post. These boxes typically serve a small cluster of homes or businesses on the same street or within the same complex.
For example, you may find many multi-unit curbside mailboxes in mountain communities where homes sit far apart or on roads USPS delivery vehicles can’t access. Rather than install individual boxes at the end of each resident’s driveway, the multi-family mailbox may sit at the top of the road each drive branches off from. This saves the mail carrier time and fuel because they can make one stop instead of four.
Each family or business’s mailbox provides plenty of space for large paper mail (magazines, large envelopes, etc.) and small boxes. Each box also features a shelf for outgoing mail.
These types of mailboxes typically have doors that open along the bottom edge. Some models don’t include locks, but others feature locking access doors and separate delivery doors with hinged flaps that prevent mail thieves from reaching inside the box.
Multi-family Curbside Best Uses
When considering cluster mailboxes vs. multi-family curbside boxes, the latter best serve small communities that need better mail delivery access than individual boxes but aren’t large enough to accommodate a cluster mailbox unit.
For example, you might install these group mailboxes to provide curbside delivery to duplexes or single-family homes in rural areas.
By installing up to four mailboxes on the same post, you can significantly cut down on the cost of mailbox installation for your community. You can also easily customize the mailbox unit to match your preferred appearance.
What Is a Cluster Mailbox?
Cluster boxes are multi-compartment mailboxes that serve neighborhoods, subdivisions, apartment complexes, condominiums, and other residential communities with at least eight households. Property owners, managers, and developers often opt for these pedestal-mounted or free-standing community mailboxes to provide a centralized mail delivery system.
A cluster box unit contains eight to sixteen mailboxes for community tenants, one or more parcel lockers, and a mail slot for outgoing mail. Each household in the community is assigned a mailbox compartment and given two keys. The property manager keeps the third key for each box in case they need to make new copies of lost keys.
If a USPS worker delivers a package that doesn’t fit in the customer’s private mailbox compartment, they leave it in a locked parcel locker and place the key to that locker inside the customer’s main box. The customer uses the key to open the parcel locker and retrieve their package.
Compartments for parcels feature trapping locks, which prevent the customer from taking the locker key once they use it to open the locker. The USPS worker removes the key from the lock during their next delivery.
Cluster mailboxes feature front or back panel access doors for postal carriers with master keys. The mail carrier can access dozens of compartments simultaneously, delivering mail efficiently and quickly.
Cluster Mailbox Best Uses
Cluster mailboxes provide secure mail and package delivery and outgoing mail collection for communities with many households. Only household members, the property manager, and the postal carrier have a key to their mailbox door.
Regarding the cluster mailboxes vs. multi-family curbside debate, cluster mailboxes work great in apartment complexes, condos, and neighborhoods. Property owners and developers may choose to place cluster boxes in several places throughout a subdivision or centralize many units in a single location.
We highly recommend cluster boxes if you’re looking for a community mailbox system that adheres to USPS regulations and provides optimal security for your tenants.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the benefits of installing residential mailboxes in a centralized location?
The USPS benefits significantly from centralized mailbox systems because mail carriers only have to stop in one location. With cluster boxes, the post office worker can fill several boxes at once rather than opening each individual compartment. These benefits improve fuel efficiency for the post office worker and promote faster mail delivery.
Centralized mail delivery also benefits residents by providing lockers for sensitive packages. Parcel lockers can only accommodate packages up to a specific size, but small parcels remain safe until tenants can collect them.
Centralized mailboxes also improve delivery accuracy. Mail carriers are less likely to deliver letters and packages to the wrong address when they can simultaneously view dozens of mailbox units.
How secure are cluster box units?
Cluster boxes are designed with many security features to keep customers’ mail safe. Each mailbox door features a unique lock and a secure design that prevents thieves from prying box doors open. Only the Postal Service has the master key that opens the entire unit, so property managers and customers alike can feel confident that mail won’t be tampered with or stolen.
The trapping lock feature on parcel locker doors also provides extra protection by ensuring no resident or stranger walks away with the key.
How do I ensure I get a USPS-approved mailbox system?
Community mailboxes for new construction and renovation projects must meet current United States Postal Service regulations, so you must ensure you’re getting USPS-approved boxes.
If you’re not sure what your local post office will accept, give your local postmaster a call before you have any mailboxes installed. You can also review current USPS regulations to ensure you purchase USPS-approved units.
In addition to mailbox type, USPS regulations dictate suitable box locations, maintenance requirements, and installation procedures. For example, property developers must not install mailboxes at an unreasonable distance from any residence.
Does the USPS maintain residential mailboxes?
Although specific regulations exist for USPS delivery, the Postal Service does not maintain residential mailboxes. It holds property owners, developers, and managers responsible for properly installing and maintaining mailbox units, including conducting needed maintenance, weatherproofing, and repairs.
We recommend inspecting your community mailboxes regularly and addressing potential issues as quickly as possible to remain compliant with USPS guidelines. Look for damage to the mailbox unit, rust on pedestals, and any other signs that may require maintenance.
When are individual mailboxes the better choice?
Some communities benefit most from individual mailboxes installed outside tenants’ doors or homes. For example, a senior housing community should provide delivery close to tenants’ front doors so those with mobility restrictions can conveniently receive mail without having to walk to a centralized mailbox.
Once you consider cluster mailboxes vs. multi-family curbside debate and decide on your best option, you can shop our selection at Mailbox Depot USA. We offer a wide variety of options, so you’re sure to find the best community mailboxes for your needs.