Since late summer, Nathan and Katie Bailey have answered their door several times, brows furrowed, puzzled to find a refrigerator they didn't buy, trashcans they didn't order, and Amazon packages not meant for them.
At first glance, the delivery address for the things that showed up at the Baileys' home seemed accurate. Their street, Nottingham Lane, was spelled correctly. The house number was right, too. But the Baileys live in Horsham, not nearby Hatboro. Their zip code is 19044, not Hatboro's 19040.
After weeks of misdelivered mail and confused delivery drivers, the Baileys discovered that a community of luxury townhouses called Hatboro Station had been built over the summer in Hatboro, five miles away, on a street called Nottingham Lane. Hatboro officials had numbered each townhouse in almost exactly the same sequence as the Baileys' long-established neighborhood in Horsham.
It falls to individual towns to assign or change addresses within their borders. So the Baileys asked Hatboro officials to modify the house numbers for the townhouses to reduce confusion. They have refused.
Borough Manager Diane Hegele said making changes in the addresses would require new deeds to be recorded for the 12 properties in Hatboro Station, just off South Warminster Road. Moreover, she said in an email, such changes would require the homeowners "to change their driver's license, passports, credit cards, utilities, etc."
The borough, for its part, would have to work with the U.S. Postal Service and notify the police department, 911 dispatchers, and other emergency and public safety officials.
If borough authorities ultimately agree to alter the Hatboro Station addresses, it would not be the first time they had done so. Hatboro officials originally labeled the street for the Hatboro Station townhouses Warminster Road. Then they realized there was an office park next to the townhouses that already had a street named Warminster Road. Out of concern for public safety, Hegele said, the borough changed the duplicate Warminster Road to Nottingham Lane.
The Baileys worry that the similar addresses in towns so close together could confuse 911 dispatchers, police officers, or EMTs in the case of an emergency. They've also concerned that the resulting confusion could compromise their and their neighbors' privacy and that of residents with identical addresses in the neighboring town. They say they've already mistakenly received sensitive mail, like mortgage documents, meant for residents of Hatboro Station.
Property records, too, have been a source of confusion. A listing on Zillow, a real-estate website, confused a Nottingham Lane house in Horsham with its counterpart in Hatboro by saying it was sold in late August. In fact, the Horsham house was sold more than 14 years ago, said resident Devin Avellino. It was the Hatboro property that changed hands in August.
"You may have a Main Street in every town in America, but you have [here] an exact street address, an almost identical zip code — and we're located within miles of each other," said Nathan Bailey, who has grown more insistent that the addresses for the Hatboro townhouses should be modified.
In addition to address mix-ups, the townhouses, built by Toll Bros., are so new that their locations aren't yet recognized by most online mapping services. Consequently, a search for directions to several Nottingham Lane homes in Hatboro yields directions to Nottingham Lane houses in Horsham.
A spokeswoman for Google said via email that inaccuracies in Google Maps, one of the most commonly used online navigation services, are addressed "as quickly as possible" by relying on "authoritative third party data," user contributions, Google Street View, and satellite imagery.
But misled by GPS, dozens of mail carriers have mistakenly delivered mail to Nottingham Lane residents in Horsham that was actually meant for their Hatboro counterparts.
So, for the better part of two months, the Baileys have returned wrongly delivered packages. They've scrawled notes on envelopes, asking mail carriers to please send mail to the other Nottingham Lane. Some puzzled mail carriers and UPS delivery workers, unable to find Nottingham Lane in Hatboro, simply returned to the Baileys the mail and packages they had sent away.
There have been other inconveniences. Over the summer, the Baileys had their internet service disconnected when Verizon became confused by the similar addresses. Comcast workers mistakenly showed up to activate service, and the couple had to redirect them to Hatboro. And an insurance agent once came to their door in Horsham for a coverage assessment of a house in Hatboro.
"We're still cleaning up [utility] billing," Nathan Bailey said. "That was a major hassle. It's a cost of time."
The people living at the same address in neighboring Hatboro have been gracious about the mistakes and sent a note to apologize for the inconvenience. They did not respond to a request for an interview.
Toll Bros. declined to comment.
The Baileys say the continuing confusion and Hatboro's reluctance to fix it are wearying.
"They're not taking responsibility for anything," Katie Bailey said. "It's always someone else's fault. It's Verizon's fault, it's the post office's fault, it's Toll Bros.' fault. It's never their fault."
The couple reached out to state Rep. Todd Stephens, the Montgomery County Republican who represents Horsham. Last week, he dispatched a staffer to accompany the Baileys to a Hatboro council meeting, where they planned to ask borough officials to modify the addresses at Hatboro Station. They were rebuffed when the council said the public forum was limited to Hatboro residents or business owners.
"To just ignore this problem isn't going to solve it or help people," Stephens said. "We'll continue to work through the same channels. I guess we'll have to involve a congressman for the area, or federal officials."
Help may be on the way. When a reporter for the Inquirer and Daily News contacted the Postal Service to ask about the problem, spokesman Ray Daiutolo Sr. said its address database had been updated to reflect the distinction between the identically named streets in neighboring towns.
Daiutolo apologized for the inconvenience to residents. The mail, he said, should start to be delivered properly soon.