THE city council has been told its landlord accreditation scheme is ‘discriminatory’ and ‘unlawful’ by a landlords’ association.

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA), which represents private sector landlords, said the scheme breaches European Union directives.

The council’s accreditation scheme is voluntary and landlords and estate agents are encouraged to to join.

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It applies to the private rented sector – but not housing association homes.

The RLA said the council’s scheme is ‘unfair and unlawful’. It has threatened the council with a judicial review if it does not take any action soon.

In the city, all landlords who own houses of multiple occupation (HMO) need to obtain a licence to rent out properties lawfully. Just under a fifth of all Oxford’s homes are thought be an HMO.

It said a condition that orders landlords to attend training sessions in order to become accredited is illegal.

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The RLA said that discriminates against landlords who live outside Oxford – whether that be outside the city or entirely outside the UK.

The association said it breaches EU directives that state accreditation ‘cannot be provided in a way which discriminates based on country of establishment’.

David Smith, a policy director for the RLA, said: “It is very concerning that there are so many apparent illegalities in Oxford City Council’s accreditation scheme.

“The RLA strongly urges the local authority to review the scheme and would welcome the chance to meet with council representatives to discuss our concerns further.”

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Other worries include concerns that landlords can get a longer HMO licence if they are already accredited with the council.

Any extra training is irrelevant to their licences.

In a letter to the council and shared with the press, the RLA states: “We would prefer to avoid further action and would be pleased to meet with representations of the council to discuss our concerns further.”

Ian Wright, the council’s head of regulatory services and community safety, said: “We received a letter from the RLA and responded on April 23 offering a meeting to discuss the matters raised.

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“It is disappointing that the RLA has chosen to issue a press release before meeting with us, but we are obviously still happy to meet with them.”

Mr Wright added: “Our HMO licensing scheme aims to protect tenants and ensure their homes are in good repair and meet fire, gas and electrical safety standards.

“We developed the system following lengthy consultation with local landlords, who requested that we reward landlords who do more to look after their tenants with lower fees and longer licences.

“We took these comments on board when we designed the system.”