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A dispute over unpaid rent appears to have led to the closure of the company that was launched in 2003 following the closure of long-established saleroom Heathcote Ball. Leicester trading standards met owner Stephen Hartwell on October 31 in an attempt to resolve the situation and were told that the site owner had changed the locks on the premises, demanding back rent of £30,000. Mr Hartwell claimed he owed his landlord £12,000 in rent and said he was no longer able to gain access to the building and retrieve either unsold chattels or his company accounts.

He agreed with trading standards to repay as much as he could to consignors who could provide proof their goods were sold.

It has been suggested that aggrieved customers send a copy of their documents to Mr Hartwell’s home address in Woodhouse Eaves. His full address can be obtained from Companies House.

Roman Leszczyszyn, head of Leicester Trading Standards, said they had received 50 complaints from customers unable to get in touch with Gadsbys since the beginning of September and 107 general complaints about the firm since 2003. He estimated thousands of pounds were owed to customers.

“What we are trying to do is get the owner of the business to behave responsibly with their customers and inform them what’s going on and to make arrangements for the return of property to the customers,” he told reporters.