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Bob Ferguson

AGO 1957 No. 79 - Jun 3 1957
Attorney General John J. O'Connell


Chapter 274, Laws of 1957, applies to safe deposit companies receiving a consideration, regardless of its nature or amount, for the use of deposit boxes or similar receptacles.

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                                                                    June 3, 1957

Honorable Elmer C. Huntley
State Representative, Ninth District
Thornton, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 79

Dear Sir:

            You have requested our opinion as to whether House Bill No. 718, which has been enacted into law as chapter 274, Laws of 1957, applies to persons or firms furnishing safe deposit boxes to customers as an accommodation and free of charge.

            We conclude that the act applies when the safe deposit company takes the boxes into its care for a consideration.


            A reading of chapter 274, Laws of 1957, discloses that its purpose is to provide a means whereby the tax commission may have a representative present when a safe deposit box or similar receptacle is opened after the death of a person having the right of access thereto.  Penalties are provided for failure to comply with the provisions of the law.  Section 1 reads as follows:

            "As used in this act 'safe deposit company' shall include any trust company, corporation, bank, other institution, or person engaged in the business of renting safe deposit boxes or similar receptacles."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            Rent is defined as the consideration paid for the use of property.  Black's Law Dictionary, 4th ed., page 1461.  It is not necessary that actual money be paid directly for the use of the box or other receptacle.  There is sufficient consideration within the definition of the term "rent" if the company derives a benefit direct or contingent from taking the property into its care and custody.  The adequacy of the consideration is for the parties to determine.  The furnishing of safe deposit boxes to customers will ordinarily result in a benefit to a safe deposit company in the retention of old customers and the obtaining of new customers through this added service.  As is said inWhite v. Burke, 31 Wn. (2d) 573, at page 583:

            "To constitute a bailment for mutual benefit, therefore, it is not necessary that the bailee receive compensation in cash.  If he derives a benefit to himself by taking possession of the bailor's property, that in itself constitutes sufficient consideration.  It is not sufficient, however, that the act be in appreciation of past favors, nor is it sufficient if done solely in anticipation of future favors.  But if it is presently done, as an incident to his business and to obtain a benefit to himself, the transaction is for the mutual benefit of the parties."

            We are therefore of the opinion that chapter 274, Laws of 1957, applies to all safe deposit companies, as defined therein, receiving compensation for the use of deposit boxes or similar receptacles, regardless of the nature or amount of such compensation.  It is sufficient if the company derives a benefit from furnishing this service.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General