Banned agent ‘broken’ by events – as landlords step forward to say they are out of pocket

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”.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/fear-shame-kelly-forrester/

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/those-who-lost-out-shamed-3738051

 

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12 Comments

  1. smile please

    Shameless. Painting herself as a victim when it’s a mess of her own doing.

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    1. Robert_May

      Without condoning or commenting on this particular case…. I wonder how many people shaking their head in disbelief are aware that a  when windows 7 support ceased earlier this week it was a seemingly un-connected factor that could lead their business into a similar predicament?

      I don’t know the exact numbers of supported and un-supported users who rely on  Access database client cash account systems but if it is 15% or 20% of the industry, up to £9b of client monies have just become exposed to risk.  Without security updates on the operating systems the PCs and servers running  the legacy software much of industry is reliant on, many business principals won’t have twigged the implications for their business and themselves.

      I’m not shouting Wolf, just using the opportunity to  remind business principals that sometimes things happen that trigger events that over time get out of control.

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  2. Stuartb

    Did I interpret this correctly, she never lodged tenants deposits and used for cashflow blowing through 68 grand ?… BT, Barclays etc it’s a drop in the ocean but as usual the “punter” gets hit in the pocket with loss of income/deposit and lets not forget all the treachery that goes alongside a web of deception. The big Linkdin story done nothing for me….. I’ve been on the bones of my **** or close to it a few times, but would never consider using other peoples money to support my business…  This does nothing to help our industry. Rise like a phoenix ?… go sort out a repayment plan with your punters.

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    1. Mothers Ruin

      Couldn’t agree more. I’ve never borrowed for my business with the exception of the occasional use of the business overdraft. There’s just no valid excuse. We made ends meet during the crash and trimmed our outgoings accordingly and didn’t draw money out we didn’t have. It’s theft plain and simple.

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  3. AgencyInsider

    A simple – I got it wrong, I am truly sorry, I will work to repay you all – would have been rather more persuasive of her sincerity than the overlong justification piece she wrote.

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  4. undercover agent

    She is clearly in a fragile mental state, the main person she’s lying to, is herself, an attempt by her “ego” to save her persona. She (like most of us) isn’t willing to see herself as a bad person, so the ego tells lies. Unfortunately this is a slippery slope. She’ll forget what was a lie and what was real, becoming lost, and then vulnerable to a serious mental crisis. She needs professional help. Someone who can guide her out of the mental hall of mirrors and get her on the right path. I hope she gets the help she so obviously needs. Mental health disorders can start by something as simple as not having the strength to admit when you’re wrong, then quickly spiral out of control. Destroying businesses and lives.

    a Phoenix is a good Metaphor. She needs to let the bad ideas and misguided operating system die, so she can be rebuilt and reborn. Personal growth often requires letting the old parts of ourselves die off. A painful process, but a necessary one. This woman could be someone good in as little as 5 years from now. I hope she is, and I hope she remembers to pay back the landlords, and that she writes again on property eye to tell us all about it.

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  5. Ocheok07

    Eye readers may remember Russell Baker the Newton Abbot estate agent, who in 2017/18 was prosecuted for stealing tenants’ rent and deposits. He received a 20 month suspended prison sentence followed by a proceeds of crime action which saw him lose his house. One would expect that the judicial process is not yet complete, and Forester will similarly be brought before the Crown Court.

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    1. PossessionFriendUK39

      These are exactly my thoughts,   this was Repetitive, pre-meditated Fraud on a large scale.

      Others have faced the legal consequences, and so should everyone.

      The Police and legal system are ‘ washing their hands ‘ of Fraud –  pushing it into the ‘Civil debt’ bracket.  (  Shamefully  !  )

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  6. KByfield04

    Having met Kelly at several industry events I can honestly say that she always had the best of intentions- her passion about her business and the way her staff were, clearly showed they endeavoured to be a quality agent. Whilst events like this bring unwanted attention to our industry and put us under an unfortunate spotlight, her story is not the first of its ilk. Many agents have done this- some have been fortunate to find their way out the other end- whilst many have suffered the same fate as Kelly. Whilst I am in no way defending what happened, it is clear to see her regret (admittedly- easy to say and doesn’t rescue her clients) and the impact that this has had on her. For many agency owners out there like me, I think we can all agree that to admit ‘failure’ and close a business after several years, some success and award recognition is a hard pill to swallow and many (across all sectors) make similar mistakes- leaving suppliers & partners thousands out of pocket. I would be curious to know why CMP did not protect her clients- maybe it wasn’t in place but this raises questions about enforcing legislation such as mandatory CMP cover. Whilst I also don’t want to blame her landlords who fell victim to this series of events- they all have a duty of care to ensure their Tenants deposits are registered within the mandated timeframe and should have been pursuing this much earlier and should also understand/read tenancy agreements to ensure they understand the rental payment structure to ensure they are getting the rent in line with its contracted structure.

    I started base, having worked for an agency owner that made this look like a drop in the ocean. We vowed we would never do this to our clients and would rather shut shop than take a penny of their money- but we know that this is easier said than done. Whilst we are all right to condemn the events/actions we can hopefully also offer a modicum of understanding. Just maybe. First and foremost- legislation has been brought in to supposedly prevent such a circumstance- the biggest questions must be why this failed and how this can be prevented in the future.

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    1. Stuartb

      You can flower it up any way you like, she stole nearly 70 grand, this was no deer caught in the headlights,

      If you broke into someones home and took items/money to the same value your rapidly heading to jail.

      Your landlord comments are verging on the preposterous, the very people that place their property and their trust with the agent.who they expect to conduct a mutual business arrangement professionally.

      She should invest her efforts and set about repaying the money she took rather than trying to create this “it wasn’t really my fault image” which you seem to subscribe too…

      I wonder if you would feel the same way had you or a member of your family been a victim.  In one word.. Delusional.

       

       

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    2. cla8563

      Landlords should read and understand the tenancy agreement to ensure they understand the rental payment structure to ensure they receive the rent in line with it’s contracted structure?

      So in the case of the landlord mentioned in the article, the tenancy agreement would have stated that rent would be paid in advance for the 11 month term however they will only ever receive 5 months of those 11 months rent???………………I don’t think so!

      I agree with Stuartb, not all landlord’s are up to speed with the ins and outs of lettings legislation which is exactly why they employ a professional agent to guide them and deal with the legalities for them. I’m sure the agents terms of business would have specified that they would take care of registering deposits on the landlord’s behalf. The only thing these victims are guilty of is putting their trust in an agent that only had their own interests at heart and not their clients.

      I’m sure she didn’t intentionally set out to steal from people and started out with all good intentions but maybe ended up over her head. To pass the blame on to the people who were ripped off by her by saying they have a duty of care is a low blow.

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  7. J1

    Theft is theft is theft

    There is no place in this profession for any Director who breaks the law and any Director that tries to assist those or cover up for those who have broken the law and there are plenty of them out there too…………

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