A HAIR salon in Henley has closed suddenly after the premises were taken back by the landlord.
Staff at Henley Hair and Beauty in Bell Street could not get in when they turned up for work on Thursday last week.
Bailiffs had changed the locks and put a notice on the door saying the premises had been reoccupied.
Hristina Koleva, who owns the business, said she had been given no notice and received no explanation.
London property firm View Estates, which bought the premises at auction in February, has submitted a planning application to convert the premises into a flat.
Ms Koleva said she had been paying £300 less in rent each month than the £1,250 stipulated in her contract under a verbal agreement with the previous owner and had assumed it would continue after the sale.
However, View queried the shortfall. She then began paying back the extra money and agreed to pay the full rate in future.
Ms Koleva said: “I could prove I had paid less by showing them my past invoices but they wanted the full rate, which I accepted.
“I paid them almost £2,000 for last month’s instalment so I was being very strict about paying them back.
“I am now trying to arrange access to the salon because the notice says we only have two weeks to collect our things. I have also asked what the landlord’s plans are but they are not talking to me — it’s all through their bailiffs. I have been very ill with the stress and the shock of it all. We had no warning and nobody was expecting it.
“My staff are very upset because they have no jobs and I’m still getting bills but I don’t have money to pay them.”
Self-employed hairdresser Hayley Williams, of Bell Street, who is based at the salon, was first to discover it was locked up.
Now she is losing business as most of her equipment is inside the premises.
Ms Williams said: “I’m just a third party and I shouldn’t have to be going through this. There’s a beautician at the salon who’s experiencing the same problem.
“We should have been allowed in the next day to collect our things rather than having to wait until some unknown point in the future.
“It’s very stressful as our livelihoods are on the line. I’ve had to spend £100 replenishing my stocks but there’s still a lot I can’t do.
“This has happened after we objected to the planning application but I don’t know if that’s a coincidence.”
View Estates wants to turn the premises, which have operated as a salon since 1986, into a one-bedroom flat.
Ms Koleva and her staff have told South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, that it is unsuitable.
They say there is not enough natural light and residents would be disturbed by noise and vibrations from lorries driving along Bell Street.
Henley Town Council has not objected. The district council will decide the application by August 25.
Isaac Gee, of View Estates, said Ms Koleva had not paid the correct rent “over a very long period”, including a “large amount” due to the previous owners.
He said she still owed £7,000, including interest and bailiffs’ fees, and had only paid £2,000 after the bailiffs arrived. He believed she had enough to cover “most of the arrears”.
Mr Gee said he had asked Mrs Koleva repeatedly to pay the full rent and shortfall but she had told him she could not afford this.
He said: “We applied to convert the shop to a residential flat as the shop was not a viable option with the current tenant’s non-payment of rent.”
He added that Ms Koleva had demanded access to the salon on a Saturday, when the bailiffs’ offices were shut, but she would be allowed in during the week.
• A mobile phone repair and accessories store has opened at the former Down-to-Earth gift shop in Bell Street. Sanbei, run by businessman and former Chinese national Gary Tong, has five other branches in Bath, Camberley, Newbury, Salisbury and Walton-on-Thames. Down-to-Earth shut just over a year ago.