The primary function of the tribunals is to promote stability in the rental housing sector by resolving disputes that arise between tenants and landlords in residential dwellings. These include flats, privately owned houses, shacks, communes, backyard rooms, and outbuildings.
The responsibility of the tribunals is to educate, provide information and advise tenants and landlords on their rights and obligations. The tribunal services are available in each province, at no cost to the disputing parties and there is no need to involve attorneys.
Some provinces also have online facilities for lodging complaints, so check whether this service is available for your area.
Filing a complaint
Each province has its specific methods, but broadly speaking these are the steps to follow at the Rental Housing Tribunal in your province if you have a complaint against your landlord or tenant:
• Submit two forms - the main complaint form and an annexure form. Both are available on the provincial RHT sites. Remember to mark the relevant complaints on the tick list, and to sign the forms.
You will also need:
• Your identity document, passport, or permit.
• Your address and copies of your written lease if there is one.
• Your landlord’s full name, contact details, and address.
• If an agent is managing the property, the company details and contact numbers must be filled in.
• It is also a good idea to include proof of payment of rent or any other documents that support your complaint.
Attach certified copies of your documents to the complaint form and keep your originals. Also, keep a copy of the complete complaint form including all the attached documents you submit. Write down the date that you submitted the form, and the name of the staff person you submitted the form to if you are not submitting the complaint online. Ask for written confirmation that you have submitted the complaint, or at the very least get the Rental Housing Tribunal’s date stamp on your copy of the submitted complaint form.
Once your complaint has been received, a file is opened with a case reference number, which will be sent to you and can be used to track your complaint.
About two weeks after receiving your case number, you and your landlord should receive a letter stating that your complaint has been received. It must include your case reference number.
Once your complaint has been received, tribunal staff check whether your complaint involves a dispute about a possible unfair practice. They may also ask for more information from you or your landlord to help them understand the complaint. Tribunal staff can also arrange for an inspector to visit the property.
After the investigation, the tribunal staff has 30 days to decide whether or not the complaint is about a dispute that may be an unfair practice.
If the tribunal staff think that an unfair practice may be involved, they will continue to try and resolve the dispute and must let you know about the arising decision.
Your case will be allocated a case officer, who may first try to find a solution by calling you and your landlord to discuss the issue.
The case officer then decides whether the dispute can be solved through mediation or a hearing.
• Mediation is a meeting where both parties try to come to a common agreement after discussing the problem, with the help of a neutral mediator from the tribunal.
• In a hearing, both parties state the facts of their dispute to members of the tribunal board, who will make a ruling.
Make sure you have copies of all the documents that you need for your case when attending the mediation or hearing. This includes receipts, proof of WhatsApp messages or SMSs, copies of lease agreements, and any other documents that may be relevant.
If the tribunal staff decide your complaint does not involve an unfair practice, they must send you a letter to that effect. If possible, the tribunal should also let you know what other steps you can take to resolve your issue. Tribunal staff will then close your file.
If you do not hear from the Rental Housing Tribunal within two weeks of filing your complaint, call the office to follow up. Keep following up regularly until your complaint has been resolved.
Contact details for rental housing tribunals in all nine provinces are available at http://www.dhs.gov.za/content/rental-housing-tribunal.