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Large Landlord Says Enough Amid Surge in Online Orders

Camden Properties, which owns properties around the country, said the increase in packages could cost the company $3 million a year.
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As U.S. online retail sales continue their uninterrupted track to record levels — estimated to reach $334 billion this year — a problem has arisen: where to store all those boxes.

The issue is most acute for apartment building landlords, whose units often cumulatively house hundreds of people and are strapped for space.

Many apartment chains have responded to the upsurge with newly constructed mailrooms in their buildings to keep all those orders safe for residents. Others have installed lockers with keypads as a secure alternative for residents to go retrieve their boxes. Some even send email or text alerts to tenants when their packages arrive.

The United Parcel Service (UPS) this summer expanded its UPS Access Point network — which offers package pickup and drop off primarily at neighborhood convenience and grocery stores, dry cleaners and delicatessens — to 8,000 U.S. locations and 22,000 worldwide by December.

But one major national apartment operator, Camden Properties Trust, has said that enough is enough.

Their 169 buildings — which the company said collectively received almost a million packages in 2014 — across the country have stopped accepting all packages, telling residents in a letter this week that their packages would be delivered to their door rather than held by building workers.

"This decision was not easy. The increased package volume has exceeded the amount of space we have to accommodate them," read part of the letter.

Christina Biller, a tenant at a Camden property in Midtown Atlanta, told NBC News that the new policy could increase the chances of the parcels being stolen.

"There is a lot of theft [in the community]," said Biller. "When they [Camden Properties] changed to the new policy, i stopped ordering online."

Biller says that tenants in her building took to a community blog to express their grievances. Many of them, she says, have broken their leases in response. Others, like herself, have said they will not re-sign their leases in the future.

Camden Properties said that the packages have become a burden to their bottom line. According to their own estimates, online orders are increasing 50 percent a year with each package requiring ten minutes of workers’ time.

The numbers add up to about $3.3 million in annual losses, the company said.

The response from some competitors has been to embrace the shift in consumer behavior, selling the idea of convenience to perspective tenants. At one apartment building in Houston run by AMLI residential, a national luxury apartment chain, a package room was recently opened to accommodate demand.

At another rental property in Atlanta, run by Gables Residential, a full-time employee was hired solely to handle packages.

"Packages are just going to be a part of life,” said Starla Kelso, the building’s community manager. “It’s an added convenience for them [tenants] and in this day and age, you need an added convenience anywhere you can get it."