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At times the relationship between landlords and tenants can become unstable. Perhaps you believe your landlord has treated you unfairly and you want to officially complain. The provincial Rental Housing Tribunals will help settle disputes between tenants and landlords.
The Rental Housing Tribunals (RHT) is a free service that falls under the Rental Housing Act (Act 50 of 1999). The purpose of RHT is to create a more stable rental housing sector and to allow disputes to be settled easily. RHTs will investigate, mediate and conduct hearings in response to a dispute.
The purpose of RHTs is to encourage cooperation between landlords and tenants. Should a disagreement arise because of an unfair practice, RHTs can help resolve the issue instead of lengthy and costly court cases.
Reasons for a RHT would include:
1. The rental property not being properly maintained.
2. Any unlawful evictions and unlawful notices to vacate.
3. Not providing monthly statements.
4. Not providing municipal services.
Both tenants and landlords can complain to the tribunals if they believe that the other party acted unfairly or broke their agreement. A tenant not looking after the rental property, for instance, can be grounds for the landlord to complain to the tribunals.
Try avoiding a dispute first
It would be better for both landlords and tenants if disputes were avoided in the first place. Therefore, it’s important for a landlord to write up a lease agreement for both the tenant and landlord to sign. Verbal agreements do exist, but if a tenant has asked for a written agreement, the landlord must provide one.
Important points to include in your lease agreement:
1. The amount of rent to be paid and when.
2. The purpose for which the property is rented (business/residential).
3. The duration of the lease agreement.
4. Who has the responsibility of maintaining the property.
The property should also be inspected by both parties, before rental and before the tenant vacates the property at the end of the lease agreement. This is to make note of any irregularities or damages on the property.
As a tenant it’s important to stick to the lease agreement. This includes paying your rent on the agreed date, taking care of the rental property and not damaging it. However, a landlord cannot interfere with the tenants right to enjoy the property either.
Resorting to a RHT
Taking your complaint to the tribunal may be your final decision. While the complaint is being process, it’s still necessary for rent to be paid and the property to be maintained.
Important steps for a RHT:
1. A letter with the nature of the complaint must be sent to all parties involved.
2. The RHT will start an investigation.
3. Mediation will take place to try come to an agreement.
4. If there is no agreement, a tribunal hearing or arbitration could follow.
5. After arbitration, a binding ruling will be given to both parties. This would be enforced by the Magistrate’s Court Act.
This is a free and efficient way to resolve problems between tenants and landlords. However, should you be unhappy with a ruling you may take it to the High Court to be reviewed. Your legal advisor can be consulted if you’re uncertain what action you should take.
Anderson, AM. Dodd, A. Roos, MC. 2012. “Everyone’s Guide to South African Law. Third Edition”. Zebra Press.
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