A local authority is being warned that its landlord licensing and accreditation scheme is potentially unlawful.
The Residential Landlords Association, which represents private sector landlords, has written to Coventry council 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 HMOs 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 a letter to the council, the RLA argues 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.
Earlier this year, the RLA wrote to the same authority raising concerns over the proposed fee structure in its additional and selective licensing consultation. The RLA now 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.
The association 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 being an application fee and the second part being payable once the licence has been granted.
The RLA is now calling for the authority to review both the accreditation and licensing scheme as a matter of urgency.
David Smith, policy director for the association, says: “The RLA is deeply concerned at the serious legal questions that hang over the council’s licensing and accreditation scheme. We would strongly urge the council to review this unjust scheme.”
In May, the association contacted 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.