A lettings agency owner has spoken about his bid to restore his firm's reputation after it was destroyed by a former employee.
Earlier this month we reported that Jane Russell was disqualified by the Insolvency Service from managing companies for five years after she failed to safeguard £28,000 worth of tenants’ deposits and rent destined for landlords.
The investigation into her conduct began after the agency of which she was a sole director went into liquidation in August 2018 following difficult trading conditions.
The Insolvency Service investigated why Jonathan Waters Estate Agents Limited collapsed and found that Russell, from Frinton-on-Sea in Essex, failed to comply with laws requiring all tenant deposits to be placed in a recognised scheme.
Russell had worked for the Ipswich-based agency for many years before she acquired it in September 2014.
Now Jonathan Waters - who set up the estate agency in his name in 1999 - has spoken of how it lost its "outstanding reputation” which he had built up over 15 years.
He has told the Ipswich Star that his new firm, called Foxhall Estate Agents, trades from the same premises as JWEAL with the same postal address and telephone number.
He admitted to the publication that disgruntled landlords approached Foxhall asking for refunds of their missing deposits.
Although he said he felt the new business was slowly changing perceptions, he added there was still a "stigma" around the name.
In 2014 he sold the JWEAL business to Russell because he had to care for his elderly mother: "I still had reservations bearing in mind that I would have no control of its running but considered I had minimised the risk by selling in-house to Jane” he told the Star.
He retired completely in 2015 but, after his mother’s death in 2017, he set up another business in Colchester.
However, over the summer of 2018 he began to hear rumours the old business was in difficulty. These were later confirmed, when he was told the business was going into liquidation.
After his former company collapsed he said he wanted to take over the business under its previous name but was advised against that for legal reasons.
"I was distraught it had not been a success but completely shocked by what happened" he said, adding that: "New clients under the Foxhall ownership I'm happy to say are discovering that the service has returned to normal in terms of its quality.”