Debt Collectors Can Seize Safe Deposit Boxes


The Michigan Collection Law Blog has posted an article about the lesser known debt collection method of seizing a safe deposit box. Debt collectors can obtain safe deposit boxes pretty easily.

Gary Nitzkin, writer of the article, says that first the collector must get the bank to admit that it has a safe deposit box under the debtor’s name. Then a Writ of Seizure must be obtained, which will send the court officer to the bank branch. The court officer must have a copy of the Writ of Seizure and a copy of the garnishment disclosure- which confiscated money from the debtor’s bank accounts- and/or a copy of the bank’s statement of admission that the debtor has a safe deposit box there.

Next the court officer must seize the safe deposit box, which the bank really doesn’t like. The bank’s natural reaction is to protect the consumer’s assets. Having a court officer show up at a bank wanting to take someone’s safe deposit box is upsetting and confusing for bank personnel, so it’s likely that the bank’s attorney will want to talk to the court officer. The easiest thing for both parties to do is cooperate- the court officer doesn’t need to threaten the bank employees and the Writ of Seizure allows the court officer to legally seize the safe deposit box.

Opening a safe deposit box usually requires 2 keys- one held by the bank and the other by the debtor. The bank can use their key to unlock part of the box, but the bank won’t have a copy of the debtor’s key so it cannot be opened entirely. The court officer will then call in a locksmith who will have to drill out the box’s lock. One person from the bank’s personnel should be present at all times when the safe deposit box is being drilled open and the contents are being examined. The court officer should never be left alone with it so there can’t be any inventory discrepancies later. An inventory sheet should be created and a bank employee should sign it along with the court officer. A copy of the inventory sheet should be left with the bank and the court officer should take the original.

If you have had problems with debt collectors, or have been harassed by one, and have questions or concerns, feel free to contact us through our website or by calling 205-879-2447.

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