Housing minister Heather Wheeler has waded into a row between landlords and Hull City Council over its approach to enforcement in the private rental sector.
The Humber Landlords Association (HLA) lost an application for a judicial review in March that sought to get Hull City Council to overturn the scrapping of informal notices for all except those who join its own accreditation scheme.
But the HLA and the National Landlords Association (NLA) have since met with Wheeler to raise their concerns and she has written to the council’s chief executive Matt Jukes asking him to work with the landlords.
The letter is reported to have said: “I was extremely concerned to hear reports that many landlords in Hull are not fully aware of, or have misunderstood, the standards they must meet to become a member of the scheme.
“It is crucial that you work to bring landlords with you and are communicating effectively to do so.”
Landlords applied for a judicial review last August after Hull City Council Hull City decided to scrap informal notices unless the hazard was deemed insignificant or if the landlord was part of the local authority’s Hull Accredited Landlords Scheme (HALS).
Landlords will also be charged for where formal notices are issued, which local group the Humber Landlords’ Association (HLA) says will cost around £250.
Gavin Dick, local authority policy officer at the NLA, said: “Hull City Council has been unfairly penalising landlords.
“While it should penalise landlords who don’t provide safe, habitable homes, it isn’t right that good landlords should be punished before having the chance to fix any problems they weren’t previously aware of.
“The vast majority of landlords want to rectify issues as soon as they arise. Councils must not tarnish all landlords with the same brush.
“It’s unfortunate that we had to take this matter to the minister, but we are encouraged that our collective voices have been heard and Hull City Council now needs to take immediate steps to ensure all landlords in Hull understand the accredited landlords scheme.”
Hull City Council said in a statement provided to EYE: “We agree completely that the private rented sector is of fundamental importance to the housing market with responsible landlords able to thrive and action taken against rogue landlords.
“This is why in 2004 Hull City Council set up the Hull Accredited Landlords Scheme through which we work with private landlords to ensure that accommodation is decent and safe. In the 15 years that we have run the Scheme, it has been supported by local landlords.
“Annually, the council’s private housing (environmental health) service receives between 1,800 and 2,000 requests and last year removed 1,400 private housing hazards affecting tenants, including hazards relating to safety, fire, excess cold, damp and mould and electrical hazards.
“Last year, the council’s cabinet amended its policy to reflect the Government’s shift towards regulation of the private rented sector and improving standards for private tenants.
“Its introduction was suspended when the HLA sought a judicial review. The case was upheld in the High Court and the HLA’s case was dismissed.
“The HLA has applied to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal the decision.
“Prior to introducing the policy and any modifications to the Humber Landlords Accreditation Scheme, the council will be in communication with HLA members and other private landlords in the city.”