A WELL-known Colchester letting agent has been fined thousands of pounds after admitting to operating an unlicensed house in multiple occupation.

Colchester Council successfully prosecuted Spicerhaart, based at Sheepen Place, for the housing breach.

Colchester magistrates fined the company £2,670 including £500 in council costs and a £170 victim surcharge.

Tina Bourne, Colchester councillor responsible for housing and communities, said: “We hope that bringing this case to court will serve as both a deterrent and a reminder to letting agents and landlords to think twice before letting properties to multiple occupants without an appropriate licence.

“The council is committed to protecting the health and safety of residents in Colchester by enforcing housing standards, and will always take action against landlords and managers of HMOs whenever they fail to comply with housing law.”

The case was heard last month after one of the council’s private sector housing officers visited the three-story property in Colet Crescent, Colchester, which was being let to six students.

As a three-storey property, it fell within the mandatory requirement for HMO licensing as required by the Housing Act 2004 – but neither Spicerhaart, operating as the management company, or the owner had applied for a licence.

Andrew Benn, managing director of residential lettings at Spicerhaart, said: “We acknowledge there was an unfortunate breach of the regulations relating to a HMO, due to a change in circumstances involving the tenancy. 

"We admitted this administrative oversight at the earliest opportunity and have put measures in place to ensure this does not happen again.”

The case against the property owner, who denied committing an offence, will be heard at a later date.