Santander branch in Lowestoft had the bailiffs in...

ONE of the world's biggest banking groups was left embarrassed after its Lowestoft branch received a visit from a bailiff in connection with unpaid rent, it was confirmed this week.

Employees at the Santander branch in London Road North are more accustomed to granting loans and fixing mortgages than being in the red.

So it came as a shock when they were paid a visit last Friday by a bailiff acting on behalf of the property's landlord.

It is not known how much money the bank owed or when the bill should have been paid, but a Santander spokesman confirmed that the rent was overdue.

He said: 'Due to an administrative oversight, rent has not been paid for the London Road North branch in Lowestoft. The payment is now being processed as a matter of urgency and an investigation launched to ensure this does not happen again.'

The spokesman added that 'occasionally these things happen' and said no property had been taken away in lieu of payment.

Santander Group is the fourth- largest bank in the world by profits, and in 2004 it bought a swathe of British financial services companies including Abbey National, Alliance & Leicester and the savings accounts of Bradford & Bingley. Last year, its net ordinary profits were more than 8.9bn euros, and on its website it boasts that it is 'one of the UK's leading personal financial services companies'.

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The Journal could not contact the landlord of the Lowestoft property, but a spokesman for the Eastern Landlords Association said life was difficult for any landlord when a tenant, whether commercial or residential, failed to pay up.

He said: 'If he's got a mortgage on the property and he relies on the rent to pay that mortgage, he's going to end up out of pocket.Not only can landlords not afford for properties to be empty: they cannot afford for the rent not to be paid either.'

Under common law, commercial landlords are allowed to 'distrain': seize tenants' goods to recover unpaid rent without the need for a court order.

Last year, another banking giant apologised after an embarrassing error at its Lowestoft branch. During a refurbishment, a new sign was put at HSBC's branch in London Road North saying 'Welcome to Lowerstoft'.