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.