While tenants may not all be the shining stars landlords wish for, they have legal recourse in exercising their rights outside the courts, through the Rental Housing Tribunal (RHT).
To contact the Tribunal, simply Google "Rental Housing Tribunal South Africa" to find the provincial office closest to you, or call 011 355 4000.
It’s best to know the facts before entering into a legally binding agreement, say the professionals, so that when disputes arise they can be successfully mediated and, if necessary, go to the Tribunal Court for final arbitration. Most importantly, insist on valid copies of all documentation and retain any receipts pertaining to the rental agreement.
All parties involved in the South African rental industry have access to Provincial Rental Housing Tribunals, previously known as the Rent Board, which is administered by provincial governments. The RHT’s primary function is one of mediating to resolve disputes between tenants and landlords, a much less costly alternative to private legal assistance. One of the most important factors says the RHT, is for tenants to realise that those operating in the rental industry are not necessarily qualified professionals. Yet, such parties manage the entire rental process, from important contractual appendixes such as rental property rules of conduct, issuing of keys, property inspections and rental collections, as well as re-payments of rental deposits (a much-disputed matter).
On the whole, both tenants and landlords are protected by the law, including the Rental Housing Act, the Prevention of Illegal Eviction Act, the New Consumer Protection Act, and the Companies’ Act of 2011. Most common are problems arising from the incorrect interpretation, or incorrect application of the law. This usually occurs as the result of tenants either having a limited understanding of their rights, of not fully comprehending the consequences of breaching contractual agreements, or of incompetent or unscrupulous behavior on the part of landlords.
For these purposes the RHTs provide information regarding agreements, legal rights, deposits and refunds, rental property inspections, forced removals, maintenance, damages, claims, as well as the dispute resolution and arbitration process. Guidance is available on how to report cases to the closest RHT office, followed by written correspondence to relevant parties, providing dates, times and places for mediation.
Respondents can file counter claims against complainants which may lead to mediation in finding a solution, or follow the process to the next step of arbitration in the Tribunal Court. During hearings, parties or authorised representatives may present cases, put forward any relevant evidence, and cross examine each other, while tribunal members may question other parties. An inspection report regarding the state of the dwelling may also be discussed dependent on the type of dispute.
An adjournment of the tribunal provides for the examination of evidence rulings, which are usually issued on the same day.