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If you’re a tenant, you need to know how to make use of the Rental Housing Tribunal (RHT) because it can issue judgments and get your problem sorted out without you having to go to court. Scorpion Legal Protection takes a look at how it works.
Similar to how the CCMA deals with labour disputes, the Rental Housing Tribunal deals with disputes between landlords and tenants. It is a legal body appointed in terms of the Rental Housing Act 50 of 1999 to handle disputes between landlords and tenants (only of residential property, not commercial) through mediation and arbitration. It can make decisions and issue judgments that are enforceable in the same way an order of court is enforceable, and if you fail to comply with an order, you can be fined or go to prison.
They deal with all kinds of unfair practices when it comes to rentals. This includes issues like:
It’s important to note that while the RHT can help mediate issues around eviction, it is not a court and only an order from the courts can legally evict a tenant.
It’s important to know that the RHT has also become strict with regard to matters where there is no written lease agreement because amendments to the Rental Housing Act have required that all lease agreements must be in writing. We would suggest that you ensure you have a written lease agreement before going to the RHT to resolve an issue.
Complaints must be lodged in writing, either in person at the tribunal office closest to the premises in question or by mail. You need the following documents to lodge a complaint:
Once the forms and documents have been lodged, the tribunal will open a file for each complaint (you may have more than one). Next, a letter is sent to all parties stating the nature of the complaint. The tribunal conducts a preliminary investigation of the complaint and will then summons the parties to a mediation session. You cannot ignore a summons, as it is a legal order to appear at a legal proceeding. The tribunal will then try to sort out the issue through mediation and arbitration. Any decisions or judgments made by the tribunal are legally binding, and both parties must comply with them or face consequences like fines or even prison time.
From the time a party lodges a complaint, it should take no more than three months to resolve the dispute, whereas the courts – especially considering the backlogs many are facing currently as a result of lockdowns – can take months or even years to resolve an issue. The idea behind the RHT is to have a legal body that works to handle issues quicker than the court system. However, practically due to Covid, we have noticed that matters referred to the RHT are taking more than three months to conclude.
While a complaint is being considered, a landlord may not evict a tenant and the tenant must continue to pay rent.
Nothing, the service is free. You do not need a lawyer (unlike some courts where you need to hire a lawyer to represent you) and they have offices throughout the provinces.
* This is only basic advice and cannot be relied on solely. The information is correct at the time of being sent to publishing.
Date added: 17 May 2021