New plans have been announced to regulate landlords in NI
Landlords will have to provide details for a Northern Ireland register for the first time, under new government plans.
The proposals will include a rent deposit scheme to protect agreements between tenants and landlords.
There will also be an education programme to ensure landlords and tenants are aware of their respective rights and responsibilities.
The plans are part of a new private rented strategy, entitled 'Building Sound Foundations'.
It has resulted from a public consultation held last year.
Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie is to bring proposals to the assembly later this year with a view to the measures becoming law in spring 2011.
She said "one in six dwellings in Northern Ireland" were now in the private rented sector and it was "hugely important" to ensure it was properly regulated.
"The introduction of a landlord register will help ensure that all private landlords are held accountable, that they are made aware of their responsibilities, and also of their rights," she said.
"The strategy will also ensure a higher standard of home in the private rented sector, and that those more vulnerable people living in private rented homes are better supported to help them sustain tenancies."
Grainne Long from The Chartered Institute of Housing welcomed the new strategy and said it supported the department's plans for a tenancy deposit scheme "which will provide protection for both landlord and tenant should a dispute arise".
Nicola McCrudden of the Housing Rights Service, has also backed the proposals.
"As the leading frontline agency providing advice and representation to people facing housing problems, we believe the department is taking the right approach to modernising the private rented sector," she said.
"In particular, we are very much in favour of a mandatory register of landlords and a greater focus on education, advice and guidance for all who use and work within the sector."