Safe deposit boxes are a method of storing valuable items. A safe deposit box agreement is between the individual and the bank. According to Bankrate.com, there are no federal or state laws governing what can or cannot go into a safe deposit box. However, there are some misconceptions surrounding the boxes. For example, it is perfectly legal to store cash in safety deposit boxes, and the bank has the authority to open the box if the rent isn't maintained. While every contract is different, there are a few basic rules for safe deposit boxes.
The Lease Agreement
When a person rents a safe deposit box from a bank, the bank sets down in the lease agreement the rules as to what can go in and what is prohibited. These leases vary greatly from bank to bank, but most institutions will not allow the storage of any dangerous items. Firearms, explosives or any other items that are potentially harmful are usually not allowed. However, according to Bankrate.com, most banks do not bother to check the boxes and are completely unaware of what is locked inside.
Bank are responsible should anything happen to the items in safety deposit box. However, they would rather not know what is in most boxes due to the amounts of liability insurance they would have to pay. Bankrate.com notes that bank employees intentional look away when box holders are placing items inside so they stay oblivious to the contents of the box.
Despite the popular misconception that the IRS has barred the practice, it is perfectly legal to store cash in a safety deposit box. Many bank customers stored cash in safety deposit boxes during the Great Depression, fearing the closure of their banks. The use of safe deposit boxes to store cash is still legal, and is now sometimes used as a way to avoid paying taxes on the money, according to Bankrate.com.
Opening the Box Without Consent
The bank can open the safety deposit box without the account holder's consent if the rent isn't maintained. The amount of time a bank must wait after payments stop being made varies from state to state and bank to bank, but three months is about standard, according to Bankrate.com. The bank attempts to contact the owner even after the time limit has passed. If the owner fails to make contact, the items are inventoried and stored for a period of time set by the bank. Once this time has passed, the items are sent to the state as unclaimed property and sold at auction.