A SHOP worker has lost out on £1500 after a Glasgow letting agency went out of business - just days after the tenant handed over the deposit on a flat.
Neil Maclean, 22, and two of his friends found a West End flat they liked on the Rightmove property advertising website and arranged to view it through letting agents, Purple Lets.
After handing over £700 for the first month's rent and an £800 deposit, he couldn't wait to get the keys and move in to the flat in Caird Drive, Glasgow, on Friday, November 23.
But he claims Purple Lets put the entry date back three times, before finally he could no longer contact anyone at the firm.
Neil now has no flat, there is no sign of the money and all that is left is a tangle of conflicting allegations.
Neil said: "I'm gutted by all this.
"I saw the flat on the website so I was sure it was all legit but now it looks like I've been ripped off by Purple Lets, who have shut up shop and made off with my money.
"I can't afford to lose that kind of money.
"Purple Lets put off giving me the keys for a few days, then a few more days before finally saying I would get them on the following Friday.
"But when I called to arrange collection of the keys, their telephone numbers had been disconnected.
"I went to their office but there was nobody there.
"My friends and I haven't got the money for another deposit just now, so we're sleeping on friends' couches.
"Purple Lets have left us homeless at Christmas."
Neil contacted police who told him it was not a criminal matter and he feels he has nowhere else to turn.
He also sought advice from Trading Standards and the Citizens Advice Bureau, but has been left frustrated as well as out of pocket.
Purple Lets used a room in a shared office block in Bath Street, but when we visited, a receptionist said there was no-one there.
We did finally track down someone at Purple Lets - via their e-mail address.
An e-mail reply from Purple Lets said the owner of Neil's flat had his money and it was nothing to do with Purple Lets.
The e-mail added that it was "purely the landlord's fault and decision" and insisted Purple Lets never handled any cash.
That, says Neil, is untrue, as he explained: "I handed my cash to two men from Purple Lets who were driving cars with Purple Lets logos on them.
"We paid £350 on November 15, for half of the first month's rent, and then the remaining £350 plus a £800 deposit in a second transaction."
The receipt for the first £350 is signed by Neil, as well as a man called Sandeep Singh, who Neil says represented Purple Lets, but the receipt seen by the Evening Times was not on headed paper and did not have Purple Lets' name on it.
According to records at Companies House, Purple Lets is owned solely by a 29-year-old Miss Zenab Ishaque of South Nitshill, Glasgow.
Companies House records show that Miss Ishaque applied to have Purple Lets struck off its register on November 19.
Legislation came into effect on November 13 which requires letting agents to keep customers' deposits in a separate, secure account.
In the wake of that change in law, a number of letting agents have suddenly gone under.
One of the e-mail exchanges between the Evening Times and Purple Lets was eventually signed off by Miss Ishaque.
She threatened to sue if we printed her or her company's name and repeated the claim that the landlord of the Caird Drive flat had taken Neil's money.
She said: "This has got nothing to do with me.
"This is a disgrace and the landlord is at fault."
The flat in Caird Drive is owned by Mohammed Sarwar, 29.
He rents out 13 flats in the city and said he too is stunned at Purple Lets' actions.
He said: "I asked Purple Lets to advertise two flats for me but they didn't seem to be having any luck.
"One of my staff turned up at the Caird Drive flat just for a check up.
"But he discovered someone was living there, which Purple Lets hadn't told us.
"Those tenants paid a lot of money to Purple Lets for their first month's rent and deposit, but we never received a penny of it.
"I've had no choice but to change the locks and draw up a new lease with those tenants and give them the first month's rent free. They will probably never see their deposit though, as Purple Lets have vanished.
"I had never heard of Neil Maclean until you phoned me. I feel very sorry for him and it seems Purple Lets have taken that money from him and then closed down.
"I really hope they haven't done the same to any other people."