Package theft has been rampant over the course of 2021. In the past 12 months, 210 million packages vanished from porches in the U.S., up 36 percent year over year, according to a recent survey of 1,000 Americans conducted by home security website Safewise.
With more Americans shopping online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers are also potentially more susceptible to porch pirates than in pre-pandemic years. Nearly 40 percent of Safewise survey respondents said they have packages delivered several times per week, up 12 points year over year, and 72 percent said the pandemic has made them more worried about packages being stolen.
As the holiday season gets into full swing, landlords may be wondering how much the onus falls on them to keep the influx of holiday deliveries safe and what they can do to help vulnerable tenants.
In most cases, a landlord will not be responsible for stolen packages. A landlord’s legal responsibility is to provide locked mailboxes, mail delivery, working locks for any unit and building front doors, but if packages go missing, they can’t be held liable. “The landlord is unlikely to be held responsible for the missing packages,” Noah E. Levenson, a landlord-tenant lawyer with Levy Tolman in Manhattan, told the New York Times.
However, if a tenant petition puts landlords on notice regarding any security issues and related safety risks at a property, a landlord could be liable following a subsequent encounter with an intruder. “Landlords are liable for criminal acts by third parties if they’re on notice and not properly securing the building,” Levenson added.
Even if a landlord is not liable for stolen packages, vocal complaints and unhappy residents are generally not desirable. Therefore, to help avoid problems with potential lost packages this season and in the future, consider the following solutions.
Adopt a package management app
Package management apps allow the property management team to put a package’s tracking information into the application’s system and continue to track its status until a tenant ultimately comes to claim their package.
Notifii, Packagex and Parcel Tracker are just a few of these solutions. “This cost-effective method improves package documentation and reduces the workload for on-site team members through automation of what would be a time-consuming, highly liable task,” Mark Peters, vice president of strategic partnerships and finance at prop tech company Zego, told Inman in an email.
Install package lockers
Consider installing package lockers for larger items that don’t fit in resident mailboxes, either adjacent to an existing mail area or in the leasing office.
Management can send a notification to residents via text or just a paper pamphlet in their mailbox to alert them that they’ve received a package, and residents can access the locker with a mailbox key. Likewise, building managers should also consider smart lockers, which is essentially the same concept as an old-fashioned package locker, but with smart technology implemented to notify residents when packages have arrived and give them access codes to the package room. Luxer Room and HelloPackage provide smart locker solutions and Smart Package Room by Position Imaging provides a similar option that the company calls a “smart shelving with computer vision solution.”
“As with package locker systems, access-controlled smart package rooms are contactless, convenient and secure locations to house packages until they are claimed by residents,” Peters said.
Advise the use of Amazon Lockers or other pick-up options
Amazon Lockers or taking advantage of picking up packages from a FedEx or USPS location can help residents avoid the problem of missing deliveries altogether.
It may be more inconvenient than having a package delivered to their front step, but it also helps eliminate the sometimes back-and-forth of having to catch delivery people at the right time, which can be difficult for people who don’t work close to home.
In addition, encourage residents to sign up for delivery alerts from their package carriers to keep them in the loop about when deliveries will be arriving — many have alert systems that can periodically update recipients so that they’re not surprised when a package is delivered.
Enlist a doorman/woman
For buildings with a doorman/woman, consider making them the gatekeeper for packages delivered. They can sign for and hold packages for tenants, or potentially even serve as the manager of a package management app. This is a solid solution, with a real person watching over packages and being able to ensure they get to the right person with a face-to-face handoff.
Use visible deterrents like security cameras
The mere presence of a security camera that is clearly visible in an area where packages are delivered can significantly help to deter a potential thief. Smart cameras that can alert users to movement can be especially helpful in preventing any unwanted porch pirates, and ones that record and have playback features will help catch a thief after the deed’s been done.
Encourage neighborly behavior
If it’s not possible to set up a secure area where packages can be delivered for residents for whatever reason, at least encourage them to create relationships with their neighbors. Host periodic social events where tenants can get to know each other, and therefore, are more easily able to pick out faces that don’t belong in a building. Ask neighbors to keep an eye out for each other, and alert management or potentially the police if they see a stranger suspiciously taking packages from their front door.
Update: Position Imaging’s Smart Package Room is not a smart locker, as was stated in a previous version of this story — it is a smart shelving system that includes computer vision.