Buyers fear estate agent made off with their cash

PUBLISHED: 17:57 28 May 2008 | UPDATED: 15:50 16 August 2010

ANXIOUS: People are in the dark over money held by Acre Estates

ANXIOUS: People are in the dark over money held by Acre Estates

AN ESTATE agent is feared to have done a runner with thousands of pounds worth of rent and deposit payments. Landlords and tenants who signed up

AN ESTATE agent is feared to have "done a runner" with thousands of pounds worth of rent and deposit payments.

Landlords and tenants who signed up with Acre Estates and Lettings in Beckenham Road, Beckenham were reeling after the shop suddenly closed and managers of the firm did not answer their calls.

A sign appeared on the shuttered frontage of the company on Thursday, May 15 that claimed it was closed for "refurbishment and expansion".

But more than 20 of Acre's customers have not had deposits returned and some rent has gone missing with total losses feared to be between £10,000 and £20,000.

Temp Nicola Warner, 33, from Catford has not had her £725 deposit refunded two months after vacating a rented flat in Lawrie Park Road, Sydenham.

She was initially told the deposit was refunded with a BACS payment which never came and was then given a cheque by the former manager Priyesh Patel which bounced.

When she went to collect the deposit in cash she found the office had suddenly closed.

Ms Warner said: "It's getting me ill. I can't sleep, I am thinking about it all the time but I am trying to move on. I haven't got a lot of money as I am a temp so it will be harder for me to save for a new deposit when I move out next."

Racheal Hitchcock and her partner Richard Marlow lost £1,390 in rent and deposit money which never reached their landlady Marina Kelly for their flat in Priory Close, Beckenham.

Despite paying £35 to insure their deposit, they were told it was unprotected by the deposit scheme and later discovered one month's rent had gone missing.

Miss Hitchcock, 25, said: "We don't know what is going on. We have paid the money but the landlady has not received it - it is not her fault or ours but it may make things difficult for us in the future."

Ms Kelly, a full-time nurse, added: "It has caused a lot of stress, I have begun to get extremely worried about my other properties that are with other estate agents."

Landlord Richard Peterkin, 44, has lost a £1,100 deposit for his property in Beckenham Road.

He said: "If they had gone into liquidation we would know by now, I think they have done a runner."

Customer John Verrill was 'left in limbo' when days before he was to move to a flat in Beckenham from Dover, he was told that Acre had 'complications with the landlord' and lost his holding deposit and removal costs.

The directors of the agent are registered with Companies House as Sai Bala and Daniel Brown, after former directors named as Bhumika Rasmikant Patel and Priyesh Patel resigned on April 1 and April 22 respectively. But none of the customers have received contact from a Mr Bala or Mr Brown, only dealing with Priyesh Patel or his colleague 'Andi'.

Priyesh Patel, who has denied any involvement with the company since his resignation was unavailable for comment. The company are registered at another address in 88 Anerley Road which appears to be used as a storage facility.

Bromley council's Trading Standards say there is no record of the company going into liquidation. The Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA), who resolve complaints between their members and the public, say that their membership expired on April 17 making them unable to intervene.

A spokesman for Bromley Police said: "Bromley Police have been alerted to a number of concerns regarding this company and are commencing an investigation."

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