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Coventry Council rejects claims that its licensing scheme is unlawful

Coventry City Council has dismissed claims that its landlord licensing and accreditation scheme is potentially unlawful.

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) wrote to the council earlier this month to oppose the scheme, and to argue that it could breach European law.

In April the council updated its mandatory licensing scheme for landlords to include an accreditation scheme.

Under the scheme, private landlords in Coventry accredited by the council are able to obtain longer licence for houses of multiple occupation (HMO) than those who are not. This is the case even if landlords are able to demonstrate expertise and ability to rent property out in alternative ways, such as through training.

The only way for landlords to become accredited is to attend training courses in person, which the RLA argues discriminates against landlords who do not live close to their property in Coventry.

In the letter to the council, the RLA argued that this is unfair and unlawful because longer HMO licences offer a financial and practical benefit for landlords, yet only landlords who are members of the council’s accreditation scheme will benefit from being able to obtain a five year HMO licence.

The RLA wants the local authority to review both the accreditation and licensing scheme as a matter of urgency.

However, the council says it will soon offer an online training programme, which would help landlords from outside the city.

Tracy Miller, Coventry City Council’s head of planning and regulation, commented: “The Accreditation Scheme is free to all, however at the moment it requires attendance at a training event.

“It is recognised that not all landlords, agents etc are local and therefore we are developing an on-line training programme in order that we are fair and inclusive to all.

“Our Accreditation Scheme focuses on the issues relevant to Coventry, so it is a local scheme for local people.

“It is meant to be a proactive tool to reduce the amount of reactive enforcement and to professionalise the sector.

“We would never do anything unlawfully.”

The RLA also has similar concerns about the mandatory HMO licensing fee structure.

As part of the scheme, landlords must pay the entire licence fee upfront-even if a licensing application is still pending, which the RLA considers this to be unlawful, given that a court case in 2018 ruled that licence fees should be split into two parts.

The first part should be an application fee and the second part being payable once the licence has been granted.

David Smith, policy director for the RLA, commented: “The RLA is deeply concerned at the serious legal questions that hang over the council’s licensing and accreditation scheme.

“We strongly urge the council to review this unjust scheme.”

In May, the RLA wrote a letter to Oxford City Council raising concerns that the council’s accreditation scheme breached EU law because landlords could only become accredited if they attended training courses in person.

Since then, the RLA and Oxford City Council have worked together to amend the accreditation scheme.

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    Why force experienced landlords to attend an expensive course? We can read. Send us the course material and let us sit an online exam. If we pass, give us accreditation.BTW make the accreditation valid throughout the UK so we're not forced to pay over and over with different local authority schemes.

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    They never ever think through all the realistic possibilities. They charge ahead with their 'We're the Sheriff in this town' attitude, completely forgetting that there are many, perfectly legitimate LLs that live far away and perhaps even overseas. They will have had a 10-second brain-storming session and come up with the idea that we'll make LLs attend a course at our offices. I don't know if it's the same in Coventry, but the pool of people our local authority choose their employees from is the misfits, failed business people and those that can't make something for themselves/gain decent employment in another field (talented folk don't travel far and wide to join local authorities in regional backwaters) and then very quickly get a sense of both self-importance and 'I'm the only true authority here' (the Sheriff attitude) and start pointing fingers, demanding you jump through their ridiculous hoops when then have barely the first idea about the industry or the law with which they dabble...probably because they believe they *are* the law.

    I have a large volume of property, so if you are (incorrectly) telling me I need to have a certain type of fire door on every single door to every single room because it will account for their knowledge-gap by ensuring the LL is over compensating, I'm going to pull you up on it...not to be an a*se, not even because you're both morally and technically wrong, but because as a commercial decision, I cannot replace 350+ property's doors just because you say so. If it's the law, then fine. If you're just trying to 'belt and braces' it because it makes the LA officer feel better, then expect, every single time, to be challenged. And this is what we LLs must do...challenge shoddy councils at ever opportunity.

    Finished now.

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    You are certainly right when it comes to council employees, nail on head there.

     
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