What is the Rental Housing Tribunal?
The purpose of the tribunal is to regulate the relationship between the tenant and the landlord (in terms of a lease agreement) and to intervene should there be any issues. A tenant, landlord or interested group may approach the tribunal.
The Rental Housing Tribunal was established in terms of the Rental Housing Act, and exists in several provinces around South Africa. Each tribunal is made up of 3 – 5 members who are appointed by the MEC of the relevant province. At least one of these members must have knowledge of property management.
How does the Rental Housing Tribunal assist tenants and landlords?
The Rental Housing Tribunal has the power to cancel an unfair lease agreement. This will be done once the various parties’ interests are assessed (e.g. the landlord’s economic interest and the tenant’s right to adequate housing).
Both a landlord and a tenant can approach the tribunal to lodge a complaint. A landlord may do so if a tenant’s actions or behaviour contravene the terms stipulated in the lease agreement (e.g. if a tenant’s actions infringe upon the rights of other tenants). Similarly, a tenant may approach the tribunal with a complaint if their rights are being infringed or they are being unfairly burdened by the terms of the agreement (e.g. new amendments were added to the contract without appropriate negotiation or discussion).
Both parties to the dispute will be heard, regardless of who lodged the complaint. In addition, if the responding party feels aggrieved, he/she is able to bring a counter claim to the allegation alleged against him/her.
In the case of Maphango & Other v Aengus Lifestyle Properties CC, the court held that issues relating to leases should be adjudicated by the Rental Housing Tribunal and only if no resolution can be found, should the matter be referred to the courts.
It is also worth noting that according to the Rental Housing Act, once a tenant has approached the tribunal, a 3-month postponement of eviction will be in place.
What is the process for resolving issues between landlord and tenant?
The first step once either the tenant or landlord has approached the tribunal will be mediation. A member of the tribunal will act as the mediator who will serve notice to all parties involved regarding the place, time and date of the mediation.
Should the mediation be unsuccessful, the mediator will issue a certificate of outcome to this effect and the next step will be a hearing. A rental housing information officer will advise the tribunal on the matters concerning the dwelling or the complaint and an inspector will give evidence and provide further information. The tribunal may also summon any person who is considered to have additional information of relevance.
Upon completion, if the tribunal rules that an unfair practice exists it may refer the matter for further investigation with a local authority or another competent body or it may enforce compliance with the finding of the tribunal.
When approaching the rental housing tribunal, parties should know that the tribunal does not charge for their services, but the parties will have to pay for expenses such as sheriff’s fees.
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