A letting agent who failed to safeguard £28,000 worth of tenants’ deposits and rent destined for landlords has been handed a five-year ban.
The investigation into Jane Hipkin Russell’s conduct began after the residential sales and lettings agency she was a sole director of was placed into liquidation in August 2018 following difficult trading conditions.
Investigators from the Insolvency Service looked at the causes of why Jonathan Waters Estate Agents Limited, based in Ipswich, collapsed and found that Russell, from Frinton-on-Sea, Essex, had failed to comply with legislation requiring all tenants deposits to be placed in a recognised scheme.
After Jonathan Waters Estate Agents Limited entered into liquidation, investigators discovered the company had no record of 11 tenants’ deposits totalling £12,000 that had been received between March and August 2018, while tenants’ deposits received between April 2017 and August 2018, totalling £20,000, had not been paid into a government-backed statutory deposit protection scheme.
The company had also collected just over £7,000 of rent from tenants between March and August 2018. This should have been paid over to the tenants’ landlords but had instead been spent in the general running costs of the business.
Due to Russell’s actions, the estate agents caused in total just over £28,000 worth of losses to tenants and landlords, with the money generally being spent on the running costs of the business.
The Secretary of State has now accepted a disqualification undertaking from Russell. The ban is effective from 14 February 2020 after which Russell is banned for five years from acting as a director or directly or indirectly becoming involved, without the permission of the court, in the promotion, formation or management of a company.
Rob Sheils, senior investigator for the Insolvency Service, commented: “A fundamental part of Jane Russell’s role was being responsible for safeguarding money on behalf of her tenants and landlords, something she failed to do prior to the company falling into liquidation.
“This disqualification should serve as a deterrent to other directors who safeguard money from doing likewise.”