Coventry City Council could be breaking the law through its new landlord licensing and accreditation scheme, a trade body has warned.
The authority introduced a free, voluntary Coventry Landlord Accreditation Scheme under its new mandatory licensing system this year, effective from April 1.
But the Residential Landlords Association, which represents private sector landlords, says it could be in breach of European law, although Coventry council has disputed the claim.
Under the scheme, private landlords accredited by the council are able to obtain a longer licence for houses of multiple occupation (HMO) than those who are not, while also gaining financial benefit from paying a cheaper licence fee.
But the only way for landlords to become accredited currently is to attend training courses in Coventry in person, which the RLA says discriminates against landlords who do not live locally.
Landlords must also pay the entire licence fee upfront even if an application is pending, which the RLA believes is unlawful as a 2018 court case ruled licence fees should be split in two parts – the first being an application fee, and the second being once the licence is granted.
David Smith, policy director for the RLA, said: “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.”
The association has written to the authority calling on it to review both the accreditation and licensing scheme as a matter of urgency.
Coventry council says it has not acted unlawfully, adding it is in the process of developing an online training programme to its accreditation scheme.
Tracy Miller, head of planning and regulation, said “There are three different types of licensing – mandatory, additional and selective.
“Mandatory Licensing is what we already do and we have introduced an Accredited Landlord Scheme for this current licensing system.
“The proposal is for that same scheme to be used for selective and additional should we as a council adopt such schemes.
“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.”
By Tom Davis
Source: Coventry Telegraph