Stormont's finance minister has poured cold water on introducing legislation to prevent real estate agents from charging tenants "illegal" letting fees, leading to calls for "action, not words" on the issue.
It comes after Belfast City Council (BCC) passed a motion earlier this week calling for the practice to be stopped, with councils being given the power to enforce potential legislation.
Conor Murphy was questioned on whether he would bring forward regulations banning such fees by SDLP MLA Justin McNulty, however he said it would not be a matter for his department.
A landmark 2018 court ruling in the case of Loughran v Piney Rentals Limited and F5 Property Limited found that a fee levied by the letting agent to a tenant was, in fact, actually a contribution towards the cost of services that agents had commissioned the landlord to carry out.
In effect, this means the tenant was paying fees to the agent for work the landlord had already paid for.
Mr Murphy, in a written Assembly answer to Mr McNulty, said that: "The practice of charging letting fees on tenants is currently unlawful.
"In the absence of sector specific legislation, that would not be a matter for the Department of Finance, a successful challenge to this practice was brought in 2017, with the claimant arguing that such fees attract the relevant provisions of the Commission on Disposal of Lands Order (NI) 1986, which set out broad principles of land law that fall within the Department of Finance's general remit.
"I have, along with the Minister for Communities, previously issued a joint communique indicating that such fees are considered to be unlawful."
Green Party Cllr Anthony Flynn, who proposed the BCC motion on the issue that passed earlier this week, said he was "disappointed" by the minister's response.
"The minister is right in that, yes, it's unlawful, and the was previously proven in court, but the problem is there's no enforcement behind it.
"So landlords and estate agents know that is unlawful, but they also know that the only recourse for tenants is through the small claims court.
"In terms of local councils having powers of enforcement of regulations to tackle these illegal fees, that needs to be financed.
It's disappointing [Conor Murphy] hasn't committed to anything in his answer at all.
"While the joint communique was helpful, they need to go further. We need action, not words."