Bankrupt agent from Clitheroe may face police investigation over £29k missing rents (From This Is Lancashire)
Bankrupt agent from Clitheroe may face police investigation over £29k missing rents
A BANKRUPT letting agent has been punished over a missing £29,000 in rent and tenants’ deposits.
Elizabeth Tomlinson, who ran First Choice Letting Agents in Town Hall Square, Great Harwood, declared herself bankrupt and admitted ‘misconduct’ by failing to protect ‘at least £8,250’ of tenants’ deposits paid to her over more than five years.
The money should have been placed in a protected account.
Government watchdogs at the Insolvency Service launched an initial investigation and found she had ‘retained’ at least another £21,041, this time rental monies she collected on behalf of landlords.
Now, she has been effectively banned from business for six years, pending further investigations and warned she could be fined or imprisoned.
In November last year, the 48-year-old from Clitheroe declared herself bankrupt and admitted failing to protect the deposit money.
Last month, the Insolvency Service imposed tough restrictions on Ms Tomlinson, described by a spokesman as ‘serious’.
This could yet lead to further investigations, possibly by the police, and court action over the disappearance of ‘at least £29,291’.
The spokesman said she still faced the possibility of being fined or imprisoned over her actions.
Ms Tomlinson declined to comment when approached at her detached home yesterday afternoon.
One landlord affected, who did not wish to be named, said: “Landlords who were clients of Ms Tomlinson have lost substantial amounts of money through her misconduct.”
He said many landlords and tenants had lost deposits they believed had been placed in legally protected accounts.
A letter to creditors from the Insolvency Service said: “Ms Tomlinson’s actions have resulted in a total loss to landlords and tenants of at least £29,291 which is a material sum in her bankruptcy.”
The Service’s website said restrictions were only imposed where investigators considered a bankrupt’s actions to be ‘reckless, dishonest or blameworthy’.
The undertaking, formalised in Blackburn County Court on August 8, means Ms Tomlinson cannot borrow more than £500 or conduct business with another party without declaring her bankruptcy, and is forbidden from acting as the director of a company.
A breach of the restrictions could lead to imprisonment or a fine and Business Secretary Vince Cable could yet authorise police investigations or further court action by the service which probes bankruptcies across the UK.
An Insolvency Service statement said: “Elizabeth Tomlinson was made bankrupt on August 8 2013 and given a six-year bankruptcy restrictions undertaking to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.
“The Insolvency Service can neither confirm, nor deny that an investigation is ongoing, planned or completed.”
Ms Tomlinson, who lives in the 147-year-old former Wesleyan School, Union Street, Clitheroe, also ran an ice cream van business called ‘Tilly’s Ices’ from that address.
The Insolvency Service spokesman said: “A bankrupt is usually discharged after one year. Additional restrictions can be placed on for two to 15 years. This is for six years. It is serious.
“This imposition of restrictions in no way means this is the end of the matter.”
The Insolvency Services website explains: “If the official receiver considers that a bankrupt has acted dishonestly, or is blameworthy in some other way, they will report the facts to the courts and ask it to make a bankruptcy restrictions order imposing certain restrictions on a bankrupt for a set period between two and 15 years.
“A bankruptcy restrictions undertaking has the same effect but does not involve going to court. They have been introduced to ensure the small minority who are reckless or dishonest are subject to the restrictions for between two and 15 years.
“A breach is a criminal offence and may lead to a criminal penalty such as imprisonment or a fine. “ When approached yesterday Ms Tomlinson said: “I do not wish to comment. My bankruptcy has not been completed. It is in the hands of the receivers.”