House Network, the UK’s first online agency, ceased trading yesterday, some two weeks after being bought out of administration by a firm called Universal Acquisitions Ltd.
Two former member of staff who worked as local agents for House Network told us that the new owners closed the doors and got rid of all the staff yesterday.
A seller with House Network also told EYE of her frustration when she became aware of problems, with a phone call yesterday to the person handling the sale of her property in north Somerset going unreturned.
She paid the firm £900 upfront and said she now now has one offer on the table with a second viewer keen to make an offer, and needs to get on with the sale of her home.
One of the former House Network agents told us yesterday: “Currently at head office there is a removal lorry removing all equipment, etc. No contact from anyone at the new owners regarding outstanding pay, etc.”
An email which EYE has seen from Kelly Horne, HR manager at LDD Construction, a firm associated with the buyer, told staff that they must return items such as mobile phones: “The company is no longer, it was closed today . . . The property remains part of the assets that were bought and therefore they need to be returned otherwise this will be classed as theft”.
Another email from Horne to the agent said: “As part of the ongoing review, the company was closed down today.
“We believe you have been paid everything you were owed less the amounts you owed in respect of the loan.
“Please arrange for the equipment to be returned with immediate effect.”
This former agent said he had been lent £1,500 “to cover us until any redundancy pay comes through and they have deducted it from our two weeks’ pay that they owed us”.
A second former employee also told EYE: “We were informed by what little office staff were left that House Network was closing down. Now all the phones are off.”
Like the first agent, he was made redundant without notice two weeks ago, and had been lent £1,500 but that money had been taken back in his final pay packet.
The agent told us: “It means I got paid £133 and I can’t claim benefits for the period.”
A company called Universal Acquisitions Ltd (UAL) bought House Network out of administration at the end of last month.
UAL swiftly said that it had got the firm operational again, while there would be a revised business plan.
However, within days it laid off staff.
Today the phones at House Network are down, although its website is unchanged, still offering a 20-point customer promise and showing five star ratings on Trustpilot.
Today earlier on Rightmove, there were 1,055 sales properties, the latest being added yesterday.
However later this morning, House Network vanished from Rightmove. House Network still has a full presence on Zoopla.
Ziggy Seagroatt, shareholder in UAL, told us this morning: “UAL acquired the trading rights of House Network on the 29th March 2019, on the 15th April we ceased trading as House Network.
“For legal reasons we are unable to provide any further comment but can confirm that any client who paid House Network under the ownerships of UAL has been refunded in full.
“In addition all members of staff who remained employed by UAL for our two weeks trading have also been paid in full.”