As per RBI's (Reserve Bank of India) regulations, customers are required to operate their bank lockers at least once a year. The bank is permitted to open lockers not operated for over a year, however, if the locker has been classified in a lower risk category, the bank can allot more time before the intrusion.
As for bank lockers falling under medium risk category, the bank will be sending a notice only if it remains inoperative for over three years.
Customers are classified across low to high-risk categories by banks based on various parameters like financial or social status, nature of the business activity, location of the customers and their clients.
While the bank may not ask for details on the contents stored in the bank locker, it is required to conduct proper due diligence on the customer before allotting the locker.
On remaining inoperative for a significant period (as per RBI instructions), the bank will send a notice advising the customer to either operate or surrender the bank locker. The customer will have to provide a written reply to the notice, explaining the reason behind not being able to operate the account.
If the bank authorities feel that the provided reason is genuine, then the bank can allow the customer to continue using the bank locker facilities.
If the customer fails to respond or if the reason stated is deemed unsatisfactory by the bank, it can cancel your allocation and give the locker to another customer, despite having paid rent regularly.
Clause at the time of the agreement
Banks are responsible to disclose the clause of transferability on failure to operate a locker for a prescribed limit at the time of hiring the facility.
Why are such strict rules in place?
As per RBI notification, stricter rules were placed on bank lockers after an incident where explosives and weapons were found in a locker in one of the bank's branches in India.
"It is clarified that the relationship between the bank and the locker hirer is in the nature of a 'bailor and bailee' and not 'landlord and tenant' though the bank has no knowledge of the contents of the locker and the bank is required to exercise due care and necessary precaution for the protection of the lockers provided to the customer," RBI said.
"In case the locker-hirers still do not operate the locker, banks should consider opening the lockers with the help of police after giving due notice to the locker-hirers," the central bank says for those who have been paying rent regularly.
As for cases where the rents are not paid by the locker-hirers, banks should have an explicit policy for taking appropriate action including breaking open the lockers.