The Minister said: "Today I have been pleased to announce that, from April, tenants across Northern Ireland are being given the same protections as those living in England. Tenants will now be sure that they can get their tenancy deposit back if they are entitled to it.
“These Regulations had the full backing of all MLAs. Assembly approval was given in September 2012. I am surprised at Michael Copeland's remarks today especially since he voted for the scheme in the Assembly less than five months ago. Mr Copeland should know that due process needs to be followed when introducing new laws and my department worked to bring in this legislation very quickly while ensuring that a workable scheme would be delivered at the end of it.
"Mr Copeland is mistaken in saying my Department failed to communicate with housing providers; there was in fact considerable consultation with stakeholders including landlords. Has he considered whether some of the complaints made by landlords today could be an attempt to protect their vested interests?
"As Housing Minister I have to deliver the best for all of the people living here. It is beyond me why Mr Copeland wants to make a bad news story out of this. It is shocking that Mr Copeland today criticises a scheme that he had the chance to shape in the Assembly; the same Assembly where he actually welcomed it.
"What I have announced today is good news for Northern Ireland tenants, and these new procedures will protect both landlords and tenants and improve the image of the private rented sector making it a more viable housing option."