Losing a mailbox key can be a bit of a headache, especially if you know there are bills or other important documents sitting inside the box, waiting to be collected. Your first instinct may be to contact the post office, but this usually won't work. According to the USPS, the United States has not used keys in rural areas since 1981, opting for mail slots. Additionally, urban boxes are often opened using a master key. In many other countries, similar postal key policies exist, making it difficult or even impossible to get a replica from the post office. Luckily, there are other avenues for mailbox key replacement. If you follow the right steps, you can sometimes even get your new mailbox key in a matter of hours.
Look for a master lock somewhere on the building's panel of mailboxes. In most cases, there is singular key that will swing open all of the boxes. However, if you don't notice this master lock, then your postman may have individual keys for each box. In such a rare instance, contacting the post office is a viable option.
Contact the building manager to obtain a new key. Large housing complexes usually have spare keys for just about every lock imaginable. Housing managers don't want to get stuck with permanently locked items if tenants forget to turn in their keys. A new key can be made from the manager's copy within a matter of hours---provided, of course, that the manager has time within his or her schedule to get the key copied right away. In many cases, there may be additional fees on top of the key duplication costs.
Call a locksmith if you cannot obtain a key from the building management. Always make sure the building manager is aware of the situation before you bring in a locksmith. Since the locksmith will change the lock and issue a new key, this action must be approved by the management. Mailboxes are technically the landlord's property, so the landlord must be made aware of any changes to the property. The locksmith's service will come with a hefty fee, so only use this as a last option.
Check the underside or back of your mailbox for a manufacturer, model number and item number. Look up the manufacturer's phone number and call for assistance; if provided with the specific item number for your exact mailbox, the manufacturer may be able to issue you a new key. You'll need to provide proof of purchase for the mailbox. Unfortunately, getting a new key this way will sometimes take upwards or 2 or 3 days. The good news is that the fee for manufacturer replacement is usually very small.
Get a quote from a locksmith. If you are unable to get a new key from the manufacturer, a locksmith can change the lock and issue a new key. However, this can be pricey so you want to shop around first.
Compare prices for new mailboxes. While a locksmith will almost always be able to remedy the problem, the fees may not be worth it for your specific mailbox model. Single home mailboxes retail at a range of prices, from only a few dozen dollars up to several hundred; depending on the style and durability you seek, total mailbox replacement may be the cheapest alternative to actual key restoration.