Police are stepping up their investigations into a letting agent whose firm collapsed owing thousands of pounds - five months after it happened.

Former clients of Youngs Owen letting agency in Western Road, Hove, have been sent letters from Sussex Police asking for documents and evidence.

Many had made statements to police just days after director Keith Youngs abruptly closed the firm's office on April 3.

Landlords complained they had not been passed rent collected on their behalf, while tenants lost deposits and contractors were waiting to be paid for jobs.

Detective Sergeant Clare Shiel, who has taken over the police probe, has thanked complainants for their patience.

The Argus has been told of claims amounting to more than £60,000, though Youngs Owen has disputed some of the exact figures involved.

Among the 22 complainants contacted by police are Singapore-based Gary Harte, who is claiming £5,000 in rent from his Brighton home, and Natasha James, who said she was owed £600 for rent on a property in Portslade.

She said: "It looks as if the police are starting to take this seriously at last."

Ms Shiel, of Hove police, has written to customers asking for copies of their lease agreements with Youngs Owen and any documents showing payments made.

She wrote: "Once I have this information I will be in a position to consider what offences have been committed."

Companies House is still considering a proposal to strike off Youngs Owen, which should have filed annual returns last February.

All dealings with Youngs Owen have been dropped by Wilson Field, the Sheffield-based insolvency practice Mr Youngs instructed to begin liquidation proceedings last April.

The practice's director Nick Wilson told The Argus he had run out of patience with Mr Youngs' failure to provide money and financial information needed to arrange a creditors' meeting.

Mr Youngs, through his lawyers, told The Argus in June he was about to provide Wilson Field with adequate money and information but it was not forthcoming.

Mr Youngs, 29, of St John's Road, Hove, and his sister Yvonne Youngs set up Youngs Owen in January last year.

Last March Brighton County Court ordered the firm to pay more than £20,000 in unpaid rent to landlord Chris Camillin, who employed Youngs Owen to manage his flats in Embassy Court.

Dean Golding, who represented Australia-based Mr Camillin in court, said yesterday the money had still not yet been paid but he was not among those contacted by police.

Mr Youngs' lawyers instructed The Argus to put all inquiries to them but said last night they had been unable to contact Mr Youngs and could not comment.