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Other Topics - Safe Deposit Box

The bank advised that it will increase my annual safe deposit fee unless I open an account with them. Is that legal?

Yes. Federal law does not establish the services for which national banks can charge. Neither does it establish the maximum amounts of fees that national banks can charge for safe deposit boxes. These decisions are made by the bank; in some instances, they are prescribed by State law.

National banks must tell you about any fees associated with their deposit accounts when you open an account. You may want to review your account agreement with the bank as well as any current fee schedule.

If you feel that your bank imposes exorbitant safe deposit charges and requirements, shop around and purchase your financial services accordingly.

I am missing items from my safe deposit box. The bank has stated that it is not at fault. What can I do?

Rules concerning the security of safe deposit boxes are generally established by State law. Typically, banks use control systems to ensure that only authorized persons have access to safe deposit boxes. The goal is to allow only the safe deposit box renter to have access to and the ability to remove items from the box.

A bank may defend itself against a claim of unauthorized access or missing items by showing that its controls were followed. The two main controls are dual control and authorized signature.

Dual control is recommended—or may be required by law—whenever a safe deposit box is opened without the renter's permission. This could include instances when a safe deposit box is opened due to

In general, by law or recommended procedures, when a safe deposit box is opened by force, at least two people must be present to inventory the box's contents. Those contents will then be kept in the bank's vault for safekeeping.

I rented a safe deposit box in 1982, but lost track of it. Now the bank cannot locate the records or contents. How can I find out what happened to my property?

If you did not pay the annual fee on the safe deposit box, it would have been considered dormant once there was no activity—such as payment of the fee—for 5 to 7 years. (The length of time necessary to declare an account dormant is defined by State statute.)

Once an account is declared dormant, the bank may be required to transfer the contents of the safe deposit box to the State treasurer or unclaimed property office. Most States require that the bank send notice of the impending transfer to you at the last address of record on the bank's books.

If you wish to find out if property from your safe deposit box was sent to the State treasurer, contact your applicable State treasurer/unclaimed property office. You can also start your search by visiting

Copyright 2007 by Mark McCracken , All Rights Reserved