The role of the Rental Housing Tribunal for tenants and landlords

The national lockdown has led to financially constrained
households leaving numerous tenants unable to afford their rent. In these
trying times, disputes can arise between a tenant and a landlord and tenants
can seek council from the Rental Housing Tribunal (RHT).

Consisting of members who have been appointed by the
Provincial Minister of Housing, with experience in housing management,
development and rental housing, the RHT is tasked with the implementation of
the Rental Housing Act and it assists in resolving these disputes. The RHT
deals with all aspects relating to a tenancy, such as verbal or written lease
agreement disputes, the rights and duties of each party, deposit refunds,
rental defaults, damage to a rental property, utilities, evictions and house
rules to name a few.

Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of
Southern Africa says the primary function of the RHT is to mediate and to
settle disputes that tenants and landlords cannot resolve amicably.

The RHT will inform both landlords and tenants of both
their rights and obligations regarding the Rental Housing Act and it will then
investigate and mediate the situation at hand to reach a resolution by making
recommendations to the relevant parties
” he says.

Anyone with a vested interest in a rental property may lodge
a complaint with the RHT. The service that the RHT provides is free to
landlords and tenants and each party may represent themselves in the matter
with no need to incur legal costs.

Lodging a complaint requires the petitioner to contact
the relevant RHT office that has authority in the area in which the home is
situated. Legislation dictates that the complaint must be in writing. The
provincial offices each have different complaint forms on which the complaints
are to be lodged. The complaints can be lodged by either registered mail or
fax. It is advisable that once the complaint has been submitted, the
complainant follows up to ensure that it reached the right person
,” Goslett

Once a case has been opened, a reference number will be
allocated to the matter before a preliminary investigation is conducted. The
investigation will be to determine whether the complaint relates to a dispute which
may constitute an unfair practice. This must be determined within thirty days
of receiving the complaint. To define this, the RHT may require additional
information from either the complainant or the respondent. In certain
instances, an inspector may be appointed to inspect the property in question to
compile a report on the complaint.

Goslett says that if the investigation deems that there was
an unfair practice, all parties will be informed in writing that the case has
been opened and a date and time has been set for mediation.

The mediation is an informal, confidential meeting where
the landlord and tenant will meet to discuss their issues in the presence of a
trained, experienced mediator. The mediator will remain impartial and will
assist the parties to come to a mutually acceptable solution to their problem.
The landlord and tenant will be the ones who make the final decision with
regards to the mediation agreement – not the mediator. Once the parties have
reached an agreement, it is possible for the agreement to be made an order of
the court. If no agreement is reached at the informal mediation, the
matter will be referred to a formal hearing for the ruling
,” he explains.

In these trying times, the RHT can be incredibly helpful
to resolve disputes without incurring massive legal fees
” he concludes.

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