Rental Housing Tribunals:
Rental Housing Tribunals are in the process of being established in all provinces in accordance with the Rental Housing Act 1999 and Rental Housing Amendment Bill; many having already had a significant influence on conflict resolution in the rental housing market.
The Tribunals’ rulings are as enforceable and indisputable as those made by a competent Court, and landlords and tenants are encouraged to use these services to settle unfair practises legally and fairly, and to avoid taking matters into their own hands. Competent and qualified members of the Tribunal have been appointed by the MEC for this very reason; so both parties can rest easy that their complaints will be dealt with in a fair and just manner.
Issues dealt with by the Tribunals:
The Tribunals have been put in place to facilitate relationship building and conciliation between landlords and tenants, and to end unfair practices between the parties involved. This includes forceful removal of the tenant, unlawful lock-changing/lockout, disconnection of water and lights, withholding a security deposit, non-payment of the rental amount, failure to attend to maintenance and other practices that violate either party’s rights or are in breach of the lease agreement. According to the City of Tshwane website, the following issues are dealt with by the Gauteng Rental Housing Tribunal:
- Rights and duties of the landlords and tenants
- Non-payment of Rentals
- Exploitative rentals
- Condition, use and maintenance
- Utility services
- Damage to property
- House rules
- Issuing of receipts maintenance
Landlords or tenants may lodge real complaints at their local Housing Tribunal and a mediator is then assigned to oversee the case and its resolution process. The mediators have established a case management system where all relevant information regarding the case is organised, easily accessible, and efficiently communicated to all parties. Solutions to disputes are often reached before a hearing is set simply because the landlords and tenants have a knowledgeable third party to receive legal and fair advice from. Matters may take several weeks to reconcile purely because of the large number of cases being dealt with, but utilising this service facilitates conflict resolution in an objective, impartial and reasonable manner in line with the provisions and regulations of the Rental Housing Act.
Landlords and tenants should not make the mistake of underestimating the authority of the Rental Housing Tribunals. Fines and imprisonment are enforceable by the Tribunals if compliance is not met; this in keeping with the Rental Housing Amendment Bill’s objective to extend the influence and authority of the Rental Housing Tribunal.
The Tribunals are taking notable steps in promoting stability and cooperation in the rental housing sector, and their institution and continued improvement have seen many disputes settled.