AN ESTATE agent in St Leonards has closed suddenly leaving landlords and tenants hundreds of pounds out of pocket.
Strong Estates, a sales and letting agent, in Tower Road, St Leonards, shut up shop without warning last week.
Christina Reeves, 62, who now lives in Portugal but owns property in Hastings, is one of the landlords affected.
Mrs Reeves, whose property had been managed by Strong Estates since January this year, said that she has lost £700 in rent, while she claimed her tenants have lost a month’s rent and their security deposit, which had not been placed in a deposit protection scheme.
She said: “I rely on that rent; it is our only income, and it’s gone. There are maybe landlords whose rent is not due until the end of the month, who are unaware.”
Mrs Reeves has given a statement to the police, as has another landlord who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, but said: “We were going on holiday and did not want a month without rent, so decided to let the property through an agent.”
After returning to the UK, they discovered the correct paperwork was not held on file for their property in St Leonards, and the tenants’ £800 deposit was missing.
They added: “This is major fraud and it needs exposing because the deposit protection scheme is not going to work if agencies are going to abscond with the money.”
A Sussex Police spokesman said: “We are investigating allegations of fraud against a company. The investigation is in its early stages and we are unable to provide any further information at this stage.”
An East Sussex County Council spokesman said: “Since 2007, letting agents have been required to place the deposits of tenants on an assured shorthold tenancy into a tenancy deposit protection scheme. “If a tenant’s deposit has not been placed in such a scheme, or if landlords or tenants believe they are owed money by a letting agent which has gone out of business, they would need to pursue legal action.
“Tenants whose rent is normally collected by a letting agent which has gone of business should get in touch directly with their landlord, or set aside their rent each month as normal and wait for the landlord to contact them.”
Strong Estates could not be reached for comment.
We would like to hear from landlords or tenants who have been affected. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01424 856782.