Recourse for landlords

Private Property South Africa
Cathy Nolan

The Rental Housing Tribunal’s (RHT’s) observation of a number of issues that arise repeatedly can be addressed and possibly avoided through increased knowledge and skill in the industry.

Although absolutely essential, written rental agreements go a lot further than crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s. Landlords, home owners and rental agents are urged to equip themselves with updated knowledge of the latest laws pertaining to rentals, so as to communicate these clearly to tenants. These include the new Consumer Protection Act, No 68 of 2008, the Rental Housing Act and the Prevention of Illegal Eviction Act, plus any recent amendments to the acts.

In addition, for the achievement of skillful Rental Housing Tribunal dispute resolution practice, such as entering the Tribunal Court, landlords and agents are required to act at a professional level. And where necessary, the lack thereof can be addressed through specialised industry training, offered by a number of institutes as well as legal firms.

When successful, mediation through the RHT offers the industry an alternative to costly legal services where both landlords and tenants can resolve disputes, and when necessary go to final arbitration in the Tribunal Court. Not be underestimated in its powers, the RHT has “teeth” allowing it to deal with a range of cases, from township dwellings to exclusive suburban mansions. Yet, an increasing number of property agents running rental departments as a sideline or property owners not qualified to deal with legal contracts, are poorly equipped to enter the final stages of a dispute in the tribunal court following unsuccessful mediation.

For those landlords who maybe new to the process, an abundance of information is available on the RHT’s websites. Included are detailed lists of frequently asked questions and answers, as well as of procedures and documentation required for entering into a dispute. For the purposes of mediation and arbitration it also provides the Rental Housing Tribunal Complaints Form with specific appendixes related to

the mediation and arbitration process.

Just as tenants are becoming more educated on the pitfalls of rental agreements, landlords need to renew their legal knowledge related to one of the most common problems, namely the re-payment of interest-bearing rental deposits. The tribunal is seeing landlords increasingly using deposits as “soft cushions” for deductions prior to re-payments, in particular that relating to “fair wear and tear” as stipulated in rental contracts.

Another important factor for landlords to note is the violation of lease agreements by tenants where, if the rules of conduct of a property between parties are clearly communicated, a number of issues can be avoided.

Information provided by:

  • Western Cape Rental Tribunal Assessment & Training Centre

  • Institute of Estate Agents SA – Western Cape

  • The Directorate Customer Relations and Communication – Department of Local Government and Housing in the Western Cape

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