QUESTION: What laws/regs govern customer notification requirements when imposing a late fee for past due safe deposit fees and changing "other fees" associated with safe deposit boxes (e.g. lost key fees, drill fees)? Note: Our contracts are silent about "other fees" but allow annual rents to be changed at renewal without prior notification if it is a general change that applies (e.g. a specific box size or a specific branch).
ANSWER: In many of the 45 states where I present safe deposit Legal Issues seminars, these states allow a lien to be taken on the property removed from a drilled past due box until collection of past due charges is sucessfully made by the institution.
These charges usually include the past due rent, drilling fees, postage for the mailing of past due notices and certifided final drilling notification letters, safekeeping fees for the storage of the removed box contents, notorary fees for the required inventory notorization, salaries and benefits of the employees or officers required to be there during the box drilling procedure, and the cost of a tamper resistant envelope used to safeguard the box contents while they remain in the custody of the financial institution.
Assessing a past due charge against a box renter must be spelled out in your safe deposit rental agreement when the contract is signed by the box renter.
The same requirement applies if you try to debit a past due rental payment from a consumer's checking or savings account. You must have a right-of-offset clause in your contract or a signed debit authorization before this payment can be taken.
Your legal counsel should review your safe deposit contract carefully. If it is not specific about past due fees, late charges, right of offset or other past due requirements, it should be revised.
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