June 7, 2023

The Queens County Citizen

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Families no longer have valuable assets even after a few years of emptying their security deposit boxes

Families no longer have valuable assets even after a few years of emptying their security deposit boxes

Sheila Levy-Benchetton One thing to consider is that the security deposit box her father rented from the big bank is safe.

Until her father passed away in 2017 at the age of 103.

The Toronto woman went to the TD Canada Trust to empty the box a few months later and found that the bank had already done so years ago – opening it by digging the lock, and then emptying the contents.

The bank opened and emptied thousands of security deposit boxes across the country in 2012 in an effort to get rid of those that are no longer used or unpaid. That its policies need to be allocated to keep things safe.

But Levy-Benchetton said she is still losing her family’s most valuable possessions and fighting for compensation.

And she was not alone. Go Public spoke to an Edmonton man who lost 22 carat gold jewelery worth thousands of dollars. who The bank says he did the same thing.

“It’s gone after it’s gone,” said Suraj Khatiwada.

He and Levy-Benchetton both said they could not believe the bank would open the boxes and dispose of their assets.

“The reason you have a security deposit box is specifically to keep items in a very safe place and not to damage them. It’s obviously damaged,” Levy-Benchetton said.

She says her mother is a diamond ring, 18Karat Gold watch, gold and silver coins and thousands of dollars in cash purchased in 1947. Her father – who is still obvious in his old age – told her that he kept them at the bank to keep them safe.

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She’s not sure how much cash she has, but her parents kept it there because her parents survived the Holocaust, so they were always anxious about running out of money and valuables easily.

“The mentality they lived in was the same,” she said.

Levi-Benchetton’s father, Harry Katz, died at the age of 103, and his family said he was still clear and had shared with them about his financial affairs. His wife, Sera Katz, appears here wearing a gold watch that the family says was missing from the security deposit box. (Susan Goodspeed / CBC)

In exchange for receiving cash and jewelry, the bank handed Levy-Benchetton paperwork and receipts, some silver dollar coins and an empty ring box.

Experts say that safety deposit boxes are managed as a side business and there are certain rules other than the rules they have set for themselves.

“It’s called the Safety Deposit Box, but it’s an agreement that has all sorts of terms to protect it from liability from banks,” said Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, a group that advocates for corporate liability and law reform. .

Levy-Benchetton said the TD regulations do not require any proof.

She asked for bank records showing who had accessed the box before opening it, and said she had sent her father before opening the box for a copy of the registered letter. Not even the bank, she says.

Levi-Benchetton had some silver coins from his father’s security deposit box: only valuables inside, according to the TD Canada Trust. (Susan Goodspeed / CBC)

“It made me suspicious,” Levy-Benchetton said. “God knows what happened there.”

As part of the “Network Wide Reconciliation Process”, TD says the family’s box was accidentally opened – one of 16,000 boxes opened in 2012, for reasons including high rent, lost keys or “by law”.

The bank said there were one million boxes across the country and the need to open them was very rare.

$ 250 ‘Goodwill Gesture’

Levy-Benchetton fought for over a year to get any compensation.

At first, a bank manager told her she never had a box, but because the family had two sets of keys and “her dad told her all things” so she didn’t “feel right”.

So, with a sigh, a family member called TD customer service a week later and asked again.

“And in five minutes, he was back on the line. He said, ‘Yeah, here it is [but] It was drilled in 2012, “said Levi-Benchetton. I could not believe it. “

When the family asked why it was given two different stories, the bank said the manager, like an employee on the phone, was “new to the role and lacking resources”.

The bank said there would be no compensation as the family could not prove what was in the box and the bank had no records.

Instead it gave the good 250 a “goodwill gesture”.

Levi-Benchetton rejected the proposal and then moved her complaint to TD’s ombudsman.

That didn’t happen anywhere. After three complaint levels, in October 2018, the private national arbitration agency that handles TD complaints – the ADR Chambers – said there were 50-50 likely valuables and no cash.

First, TD told Levy-Benchetton that his father’s security deposit box did not exist. (Susan Goodspeed / CBC)

After doing loose accounting, the company found the value of the jewelry to be 4,8,400 and recommended to TD to pay half the amount to Levy-Benchetton and her family.

ADR Criticized with bias The banks will investigate it because they will pay a fee for its service.

Levi-Benchetton turned down the offer, saying it would not begin to bury the family’s losses. She also wants the bank to pay a hefty fine.

“It simply came to our notice then [but] It’s more than sure, ”she said.

“It really intensified us a lot. We lost a lot of sentiments and the only language the bank knew was money … so we had to hit them where it hurt.”

The family hired paralegal George Berger to help get answers from TD – and can sue.

“They refused to give information about exactly what happened,” Berger said.

George Berger is a lawyer who has been trying to find out if other TD clients are losing valuables since opening thousands of safety deposit boxes in 2012. (Susan Goodspeed / CBC)

‘It’s gone after it’s gone’

Suraj Khatiwada of Edmonton found his wife missing 22 carat gold wedding glasses, necklace and wedding ring even after the TD Canada Trust “accidentally” opened his security deposit box without his permission.

He said it had been a while between 2015, when he finally opened the box, and in 2017, he discovered that the bank had punched a lock.

Months later and after an investigation by the bank’s ombudsman, TD apologized and offered him a gift of 000 12,000 for the missing jewelery. He said he had no proof, but provided photos of the jewelry to the bank.

The bank promised to investigate at the time, but did not yet explain how the items went missing.

“It’s very unfortunate … we can not replace the sentimental value of those things,” said Khatiwada, who immigrated from Nepal in 2010.

Suraj Khatiwada, who appeared here with his wife on their wedding day in 2009, said the 22-carat jewelery she was wearing was indestructible. (Submitted by Suraj Khatiwada)

“In Western culture, the wedding ring is very valuable. But in our culture, it’s also a necklace and a ring. We have a special ring ceremony, so they can not be replaced.”

TD spokeswoman Carla Hindman said the bank has protocols to enforce open safety deposit boxes, “there must be at least two employees, one of whom must be the manager, and they will always be. [staff] Delete, list, package and store content securely. “However, she did not say if those rules were followed in the two cases that Go Public sees.

Banks have been reprimanded for not taking proper precautions with safety deposit boxes.

In 2002, a BC court awarded more than $ 20,000 in damages to a woman who, after TD opened her, erroneously concluded that she had rent arrears.

And in 2001 and 2006, the Commissioner of Privacy of Canada extensively Banks have been criticized for improper record keeping and for violating privacy rules related to opening boxes.

The commissioner did not name any bank or banks involved in those complaints.

TD also emptied the Khatiwada Safety Deposit Box No. 145 in 2012. Missing gold jewelry was never found. (Submitted by Suraj Khatiwada)

Konacher on Democracy Watch Bank customers have to fight these long wars because the rules on how banks handle security deposit boxes are not part of Canada’s banking law and are largely out of control.

He said the lack of government regulations would make it harder for Canadians to get fair compensation when banks mismanage boxes.

Provincial estate laws refer to security deposit boxes, but are limited to how beneficiaries can access them after someone dies.

“If [something] If lost, then you do not have a contract to protect the bank, but you also have the burden of proof to prove that the bank did not handle that box properly.

“This is a very big hurdle for any consumer to try and climb to get accountability,” Conacher said. He is calling on the federal government to update the bank law to include safety deposit boxes.

Go asked the public finance ministry if Ottawa was planning to make changes. In a statement, it only says it will review the laws regularly to “ensure Canadians have the protections they need”.

Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, said there was a lack of government regulations that banks must adhere to in the management of security deposit boxes. (CBC)

Unlike regular bank deposits, the contents of security deposit boxes are not insured by financial institutions, so owners must insure valuables as part of home insurance policies and regularly document the ones with photos and witnesses.

After their experiences with both Levi-Benchetton and Khatiwada, they finished with security deposit boxes.

Khatiwada said he still had an account with TD, which contained a deposit box, but he was sitting empty with Go Public‌.

“I lost my confidence,” he said.

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