Landlords are claiming that they have been left out of pocket by an agent banned after taking over £68,000 in tenants’ deposits.
Kelly Forrester, who ran Clear Property in Exeter, has told EYE that she was broken by events.
She has also said in an article that she sent us that she should have closed her business earlier, and has been gripped with shame about owing her clients money.
This week it was announced that she has been banned from being a director for six years after an investigation by the Insolvency Service.
It said that Forrester, 40, had not disputed that the deposit money had not been protected as required by law.
Instead, she used the money on the general running of her company, which ceased trading last February and went into liquidation last April.
Forrester’s LinkedIn CV says that she has been co-owner of Over the Edge since last February. The entry also says she has gained the NFOPP level 2 sale of residential property qualification. It is on LinkedIn that she has written her blog.
Meanwhile, a local newspaper quotes a landlord Steve Powne who says that Forrester’s business retained £2,000 deposit money which he and his wife had to replace.
He said: “Being disqualified is not a sufficient penalty.”
Another landlord, who asked not to be named, said: “As well as withholding deposits, in our case £1,100, Clear Property took 11 months’ rental from foreign students up-front, and we only received five months rental money by the time the business folded.”
“This amounted to £6,600 lost and it was also the fact the full amount was entirely taken without our knowledge. We were forced to let the tenants stay for their full term and refund their £1,100 deposit, but received no rental for six months of this.”
Powne also alleges that Clear Property went ahead with another rental agreement – the paper claims this was from September 2019 to July 2020 – and resulted in two students losing their £1,100 deposit.
One local agent told us that they know of at least two landlords understood to be out of pocket to the tune of £6,000 and £15,000 apiece.
Hawkins Insolvency were appointed voluntary liquidators last April.
A statement of affairs dated last March estimated the deficiency regarding creditors was £647,596, with creditors including Barclays Bank, BT and Exeter City Council.
EYE invited Forrester to comment, and yesterday evening she sent us a link to a blog she published last March, expressing heartache, suicidal thoughts and regrets. In it she says she should have closed her business earlier, and explains that she had taken out a “substantial” loan for her business, personally guaranteeing it.
Part of her blog says: “For the past two years I’ve been trying to smile. Wearing a heavy weight on my shoulders. For the past two years I tried my absolute hardest to do everything I could, to avoid closure of my business.”
She goes on: “I regret not closing my business in June 2018 when I should have done so. I regret allowing an investor into my business without seeking professional advice. I’m ashamed, mostly, for the way I had to close my business. Owing some of my clients considerable amounts of money, this really grips me with shame.”
Forrester says in the blog, in which she reveals that her eldest son worked with her in the business, that her worst fear is the press and “what they print”. She says she will not be returning to agency, but will “rise like a phoenix, stronger than ever before”.