Answers about Safe Deposit Boxes

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

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: Two people—usually a bank employee and the renter—are required to open the box. In this way, no one person can ever open the box and remove the contents.
  • Authorized signature: When the safe deposit account is opened, all persons authorized to access the box sign the signature card. The bank can only allow those individuals to enter the box. From then on, the bank records the signature of any individual allowed to enter the box.

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

  • court order,
  • pursuant to search warrant,
  • rental delinquency on the box, or
  • branch closure.

Generally, when a safe deposit box is opened by force, at least two people must be present to inventory the box's contents. The bank will keep the contents in the vault for safekeeping.