How to Cut Risks When Accepting Packages for Residents
Most apartment residents are not home during the day to accept packages sent to them. That's why many sites accept packages for their residents and hold them until the residents come to pick them up. But if you do not control package deliveries and pickups, you could run into trouble, says manager Doug Chasick. People may take packages that are not theirs; packages may go unclaimed because their recipients do not know that they have arrived; or disputes may arise over when, or if, a package actually arrived and whether the resident ever picked it up. You could even face a lawsuit by an irate resident if something goes wrong.
You can avoid trouble and disputes by setting a policy to guide your staff when accepting and holding packages for residents, adopting rules for your residents to follow, and using a delivery and pickup log. We give you a Model Policy: Set Package Delivery Policy for Staff, and Model Rules: Put Package Pick-Up Rules in Lease or House Rules that you can adapt for your own use.
Require Staff to Follow Policy on Holding Packages
To avoid problems with accepting packages for residents, it's smart to have a written policy telling your staff how to handle resident deliveries, says Atlanta attorney Robert P. Hein. Your policy, like our Model Policy, should require your staff to do five things:
1. Keep residents' packages in a secure place. “In one of our communities, the staff kept resident packages on a table in the lobby. Anyone could have taken whatever they wanted,” says Chasick. He solved the problem by requiring the staff to keep packages in a locked cabinet or closet or a part of the office not accessible to residents.
2. Log in every package delivery. When a package arrives, the staff member who accepts it should enter into a logbook the date, time, sender, recipient, and tracking number, if any, says Hein. That way, you will always know what packages you got. Having a log will also save your staff the trouble of looking through a pile of packages to see whether a package came in for a particular resident. They will need only look at the log.
3. Get proof of identity from people picking up packages. Strangers picking up packages can be a problem, especially in large sites where your staff might not recognize every resident. You need to be sure that the person picking up a package for unit 17F is actually the resident of unit 17F.
4. Have residents sign for their packages. When a resident picks up a package, have the staff member print the resident's name in the package log next to the entry for her particular package and have her sign next to her name.
5. Initial next to the resident's name. Then have the staff member initial the entry next to the resident's signature. That way, if questions arise later on, you will always know which employee released the package.
Tell Residents About Rules
It's a good idea to set package pick-up rules for residents, says Hein. You can do this in your lease or in your house rules or handbook. That way, residents will not be as quick to blame you if something goes wrong. Hein remembers a case where a resident got a package containing perishable food. It spoiled before the resident picked it up, and she sued the owner of her site for not telling her that the package had arrived. The owner claimed that it was the resident's responsibility to check on her own deliveries. Thanks to a statement in the site handbook that said residents were responsible for checking to see whether they had any deliveries, the owner escaped liability, says Hein.
Your rules should tell residents whether you will notify them when packages arrive, and spell out the procedure for picking up packages. They should also state that you are not responsible for the security of the packages.
How to Create and Use Package Log
When your staff gets a delivery for a resident, they should record the delivery in a package log and place the package in a secure area. When a resident picks up a package, he should print his name and sign on the line next to the log entry for his package. Your log should have six columns:
1. Delivery date and time. That way, you avoid disputes about how long you have had the package.
2. Addressee (“To”). Write the recipient's name and apartment number. If a resident asks whether a package has arrived for her, you will be able to scan down the form for her name or unit number. You will not have to search for a package that may not even be there.
3. Name of sender (“From”) and tracking number. Recording the sender's name and address will help avoid confusion for residents who receive more than one package at a time.
Many delivery companies, such as UPS and Fedex have “tracking numbers” on their packages. These numbers help them keep track of whether a package has been delivered and, if so, who signed for it and when. If a package has a tracking number, write it in the log. That will help you sort out any confusion if a resident accidentally gets the wrong package, says Chasick. Mistakes do happen, because packages tend to look alike. When the intended recipient asks you for a misdelivered package, you will be able to find out to whom you mistakenly gave it.
4. Recipient's name (“Picked Up By”) and pick-up date and time. When the resident picks up the package, print her name in this space so you will have a record that the addressee and the person who claimed it were the same. Do not let the resident write her own name. You need to be sure that it is legible.
Also, when the resident picks up her package, write down the date and time. That way, if you get dragged into a dispute between the resident and the sender over when the package was delivered, you will know when you got it and when you got rid of it.
5. Recipient's signature. Have the resident sign the log. This acknowledges that she received the package and will help prove that you gave the package to the right person if a dispute arises.
6. Employee's initials. Have the employee who released the package initial the log. That way, if a mistake is made, there will be no dispute over who made it. Also, you will know whom to ask if a question arises.
Keep the logs in a three-ring binder, suggests Chasick. Each time a package arrives, the employee who receives it should fill out a line for it in the log. When the recipient picks up the package, the employee who releases it will initial the line, write the date and time it's being picked up, clearly print the recipient's name, and have the recipient sign for it. When the page is full, start on another one. Keep all the pages in a three-ring binder and keep the binder somewhere that's convenient for employees accepting and releasing packages.
Doug Chasick, CPM: Senior VP, Multifamily Professional Services, CallSource, (888) 222-1214; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robert P. Hein, Esq.: Attorney at Law, Fowler, Hein, Cheatwood and Williams, P.A., 2970 Clairmont Rd., Ste. 220, Atlanta, GA 30329; (404) 633-5114; RobinHein@ApartmentLaw.com.
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