What is the role of the Rental Housing Tribunal?

The Rental Housing Tribunal was established in 2001 and its main aim is to help resolve disputes that arise between landlords and tenants. The Rental Housing Tribunal acts as an independent body and all services that are offered are for free.

The rental tribunal can effectively deal with non-payment of rentals, failure to refund deposits, overcrowding, unacceptable living conditions, harassment, intimidation, lack of maintenance, determination of fair rentals, unlawful seizure of tenant’s belongings, discrimination, exploitive rentals, illegal lock-out or illegal disconnections.

According to a local property lawyer any complaints can be lodged in person or by mail. “You can call 0860 106 166/ 011 355 4000/ 012 483 5020. It is important to note that while a complaint is being handled, the landlord may not evict a tenant, a tenant must continue to pay all rent payable and the landlord must remedy any and all necessary maintenance.”

He noted that the required documents to lodge a complaint include: an id/ permit/ passport, the relevant lease agreement, proof of applicable payments, proof of the physical address of both parties, and contact telephone numbers.

“Once a case is opened, and a reference number is allocated to the matter, a preliminary investigation is conducted. The investigation determines whether the complaint relates to a dispute that constitutes unfair practice.

After the preliminary investigation all parties will be informed in writing and a mediation session will be arranged to resolve the issue. If no agreement is reached, the matter will be referred for a tribunal hearing or arbitration. When the arbitration has taken place, a binding ruling will be handed down to both parties involved.

Any ruling will be enforced in terms of the Magistrate’s Court Act, if one of the parties is dissatisfied with the outcome, he/she can have the matter reviewed by a High Court.

To avoid any issues between new tenants and landlords its vital for both parties to conduct a joint inspection of a property prior to occupation,” the property  lawyer explained.

Any defects to the property should be noted and a date agreed by which time they will be fixed. To avoid any future disputes landlords should rather make use of experienced property rental agents. Property agents are experienced in dealing with rental arrangements, background checks, financial and reference checks.

Although verification and check processes may take some time this process reduce the chances of future disputes and potential defaulters and undesirable would-be tenants that can be problematic.

Tenants should also ensure that they familiarise themselves with the rules and laws pertaining to rentals so that treated unfairly or exploited by landlords