Manchester-based Harrison Black Associates Ltd has been ordered into liquidation by the High Court for misleading almost 100 small businesses into paying upfront for services not then performed to challenge business rate valuations.
Harrison Black Associates Ltd and related company Hayden Moss Associates Ltd, registered in London, were ordered to be struck off at Companies House following an investigation by the Insolvency Service.
The companies’ agents told prospective clients they were likely to be successful in obtaining a business rate revaluation of their premises. Clients were required to pay an upfront fee ranging from £495+VAT to £2,500+VAT, and were promised that a professional survey of their premises would be undertaken to support the business rate valuation appeal.
Between May 2014 and June 2015, at least 91 businesses signed agreements with the companies. There was no evidence to show that Harrison and Hayden were ever successful in obtaining a positive business rate re-valuation for a client and few clients were ever visited by a surveyor acting for the companies.
In addition, the investigation found there was a deliberate use of dishonest and misleading statements to prospective clients; that the companies had used false documentation to obtain payment from clients; that the companies failed to produce company documents to the investigators and failed to make adequate provision to meet money-back guarantees provided to clients totalling more than £54,000.
Alex Deane, investigation supervisor at the Insolvency Service, said: “These companies took advantage of businesses anxious to reduce costs, but simply made matters worse for them. The directors of such companies should be aware that the Insolvency Service will take firm action against companies, and directors, that mislead the public in this way.”
Harrison Black Associates Ltd (Company No. 08978150) was incorporated on 04 April 2014. Its registered office is at 83 Ducie Street, Manchester, M1 2JQ.
Hayden Moss Associates Ltd (Company No. 09523970) was incorporated on 02 April 2015. Its registered office is at 40 Bank Street, London, E14 5NR.
Both companies traded from the residential addresses of their sole director, Sarah Elizabeth White. When dealing with clients White used the alias Sarah Regan.
The petitions to wind-up Harrison Black Associates Ltd and Hayden Moss Associates Ltd were presented under s124A of the Insolvency Act 1986 on 8 January 2016. The companies were wound up on 1 March 2016. The Official Receiver has been appointed as liquidator of each company.