New bill to impact the South African rental market

There has been a lot of talk revolving around the Rental Housing Amendment Bill within the rental property industry recently, which was tabled before the National Assembly in the early stages of this year. If this bill is passed on, many South Africans will be affected in the near future, as roughly 2.5 million (the latest estimated amount from Stat’s SA’s 2013 General Household Survey) households are situated within rented accommodation.

The Rental Housing Act of 1999 has regulated all residential leases but however, the new bill tells us that even more control will be put into place and judging by the increasingly high number of tenanted properties in South Africa, the need of this new bill is heightened, but what are the implications and requirements involved in order for this new bill to be declared up and running?

The most significant change regarding the new bill is that from now on, all lease agreements must be put in writing. To avoid miscommunication throughout all processes, a pro-forma lease agreement, which the minister will produce, will be drafted into all 11 official languages. This will allow for a more understanding and precision form of approaching all situations. Currently, the established bill allows for lease agreements to be in in both written and verbal form, however, the use of a verbal lease agreements leads to conflict and disputes more often than not which leads to situations that are difficult to resolve.

A written lease agreement carries a handful of benefits. It is indeed obvious that a written lease agreement helps sort out disagreements between tenant and landlord in a much orderly fashion however, transferring spoken words onto paper at some times, is not a walk in the park. Especially in cases dealing with potentially illiterate tenants.

Another important addition to the new bill, which has been called upon to be clarified, is that all provincial Rental Housing Tribunals will need to draft Unfair Practice Regulations. Gauteng as well as the Western Cape are the only provinces that have these regulations in place but even with that being said, they differ widely in their respected provisions. This is important because the bill proposes that tribunals should have an appeal and review processes, which allows a cost effective way to oppose the tribunals’ finding without having to address the High Court.

To allow for a more precise and fair conclusion, at least one member of the tribunal is required to have legal qualifications as well as legal expertise. With that being said, landlords should be fully conscious that the proposed amendments will have no impact whatsoever on the authority of the tribunal to evict tenants as that level of authority and judgement is placed only on the Magistrates as well as the High Court.