Social development minister Margaret Ritchie has vowed to protect the rights and responsibilities of both tenants and private landlords in Northern Ireland.

In a statement released by the Northern Ireland Executive, the politician said this was part of a strategy to overhaul the private rented sector in the country.

Ms Ritchie indicated that private landlords and the sector they work in can play a greater role in meeting the needs of the housing industry.

She wants to implement a tenancy deposit scheme and create an independent body to manage landlord legal issues.

"The private rented sector is becoming increasingly important in meeting demand for housing,"the minister explained. "There are almost as many houses in the sector as the total managed by the Housing Executive.

British prime minister Gordon Brown recently made some personnel changes to his government, which will have an effect on the property industry.

John Healy was named housing minister, while Ian Austin will now hold responsibilities for the private rented sector.

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