Salon owner takes on Mead family in rent battle


Gavel - Credit: Archant

A salon owner has been awarded damages after a winning a three-year legal battle with her landlords, a well-known Weston family.

Salon owner Gisella Stevens and landlords the Ebdon Partnership – owned by Puxton Park owner Derek Mead and his family – were at loggerheads over rent payment.

In July 2012, after Mrs Stevens was unable to pay her rent on several occasions, the Mead family refused to return her property after the end of her lease and re-let the property as a fully-fitted salon with her goods still inside.

Mrs Stevens’ solicitors say she was unable to pay rent because she was the victim of fraud.

The Ebdon Partnership says it had lowered Mrs Stevens’ rent several times to try to help her, but after still receiving no payments, the partnership says it had no choice but to arrange forfeiture of the lease.

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Solicitor Alex Dunne, who represented Mrs Stevens, said: “After her landlords, local councillor Derek Mead and his family, changed the locks on the salon, as they were entitled to, Mrs Stevens asked on several occasions to be able to retrieve her stock and other property.”

In November 2012 Mrs Stevens sought legal advice, and the Ebdon Partnership allowed her to collect some of her property.

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Mr Mead, one of five family members in the partnership, said Mrs Stevens had sought voluntary financial aid, a process which prevented her creditors from taking action to get back the money she owed.

He said: “Under the terms of that she was supposed to make regular payments to her supervisor for distribution to her creditors. But we have had no information from the supervisor and do not know whether Mrs Stevens has made any of the required payments.”

The landlords claimed the rest of her equipment as compensation for the unpaid rent.

Mr Dunne, of SM Commercial, said: “After advertising the premises as a salon on social media, the landlords re-let it with her property still inside. The value of the goods, as found by the court, was many times the outstanding rent, for which payment arrangements had been made within a few months of closure.”

But the Ebdon Partnership says it had the property valued and it was within £1,000 of the amount it was owed.

After a three-year battle, the dispute was resolved during a five-day hearing at Bristol County Court, where the judge ruled in favour of Mrs Stevens and ordered the Meads to pay thousands of pounds in compensation.

Mrs Stevens said: “I am so relieved this is all over; the past two-and-a-half years have been hell for me and my family.

“From day one it was me against them. I realised if I was ever going to get my property back, I would need a lawyer.

“Not only had I lost access to my equipment, but my database with all my customer information was also locked in the shop. This meant that I wasn’t able to maintain the relationships I’d spent years building up.

“I can only apologise to all of the customers who were inconvenienced.”

But for the Mead family, the dispute is far from over.

Mr Mead says his company made a formal complaint to the Insolvency Service.

Mr Mead added: “At the moment Grant Thornton in Bristol have been appointed joint supervisors and are undertaking a full review of Mrs Stevens’ case.”

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