Junior housing minister Heather Wheeler MP has written to Hull City Council to express her concerns about the authority's controversial accreditation scheme.
The council has been taking action against landlords whose tenants report them for problems with their rental properties, reportedly serving many improvement notices before landlords have had the chance to address complaints.
The Hull Accredited Landlords Scheme provides landlords with an exemption from an immediate council inspection - as well as a £250 fee - following a tenant complaint.
The scheme is free to join and requires landlords to attend a one-day training course on housing health and safety.
Following a meeting with landlords, the National Landlords Association (NLA) and Humber Landlords Association, Heather Wheeler has called on Hull City Council chief executive, Matt Jukes, to 'work with landlords'.
The complaints stem from landlords being confused about entry criteria for the scheme and the perception that the Labour-controlled city council has been 'unfairly penalising' landlords before they have the opportunity to fix problems they were previously unaware of.
"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," writes Wheeler in a letter to Matt Jukes.
"It is crucial that you work to bring landlords with you and are communicating effectively to do so."
Gavin Dick, local authority policy officer at the NLA, says: "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 Hull Accredited Landlords Scheme," he says.
Earlier this year, Hull City Council won a High Court case against the Humber Landlords Association which was seeking to challenge the implementation of the authority’s 'Private Housing Enforcement Policy'.
The High Court ruled that the council is within its rights to operate the policy which sees landlords served improvement notices after tenant complaints and hit with a £250 charge if they're not part of the city's accreditation scheme. The landlord association was ordered to pay the council's legal costs and refused permission to appeal the decision.