This list is not exhaustive, but are a few examples of issues that the RHT can intervene
a) Non-compliance with the Rental Housing Act b) non-payment of rentals, c) failure to refund deposits, d) Not delivering receipts, in respect of payments made, to the tenant e) exploitive rentals f) determination of fair rentals g) Unacceptable living conditions, such as overcrowding or hygienic issues, h) Insufficient maintenance or repairs of a dwelling; i) Damage to property j) harassment and intimidation, k) unlawful seizure of tenant’s belongings, l) Discrimination by the landlord of the tenant on ground of race, sex etc., m) illegal lock-out or illegal disconnections. n) Eviction without a court order
1. PROCESS AND LODGING A GRIEVANCE WITH RHT
From the time a grievance is lodged, it ought to take no more than three months for a grievance to be determined by an RHT.
1.1.1. FIRST STEP: LODGING A GRIEVANCE BY TENANT OR LANDLORD 220.127.116.11. Complete the prescribed forms available from the RHT. 18.104.22.168. The complete forms together with the papers in support of the grievance may be lodged with the Tribunal in person, by post, by fax or by e-mail at the relevant RHT offices which can be determined by looking online or by phoning 0860 106 166/ 011 355 4000/ 012 483 502. 22.214.171.124. The documents in support of the grievance may include: a) copies of the landlord/tenant’s identity document; b) written lease agreement, or the terms and conditions of the verbal lease agreement; c) proof of payment, d) if any; addresses of the tenant and the landlord; and e) contact particulars of the tenant and the landlord.
1.1.2. SECOND STEP: OPENING A FILE BY RHT 126.96.36.199. The RHT will then open a file for each grievance and send a letter to all the parties detailing the nature of the grievance.
1.1.3. THIRD STEP: INVESTIGATION BY RHT 188.8.131.52. The RHT will conduct a preliminary inquiry.
1.1.4. FOURTH STEP: MEDIATION 184.108.40.206. A mediation gathering will be organized to attempt to resolve the matter. 220.127.116.11. If no resolution is reached between the parties, the matter will be referred to arbitration.
1.1.5. FIFTH STEP: ARBITRATION 18.104.22.168. As soon as arbitration has taken place, a compulsory ruling will be given down to both parties. 1.1.6. SIXTH STEP: RULING BINDING 22.214.171.124. Any ruling will be obligatory in terms of the Magistrate’s Court Act.
1.1.7. SEVENTH STEP: IF NOT SATISFIED WITH RULING 126.96.36.199. If one of the parties is displeased with the result, he/she can have the matter reviewed by a High Court.
1.2. DUTIES OF LANDLORD AND TENANT UNTIL OUTCOME OF RULING
1.2.1. landlord may not evict the tenant; 1.2.2. tenant must continue to pay the rent; and
1.2.3. landlord must continue to maintain and/or repair the property.
2. DO’S AND DON’TS FOR AVOIDING RENTAL DISPUTES
2.1. PROPERTY INSPECTIONS
“Truth is confirmed by inspection and delay; falsehood by haste and uncertainty” (quote by Tactitus).
Both landlords and tenants must conduct a joint inspection of a property prior to occupation and before it is vacated.
There are two types of inspections, namely incoming inspection and outgoing inspection.
2.1.1. Incoming Inspection
The Landlord and Tenant must jointly inspect the property, before the Tenant moves in, to determine the presence of any faults or damage and to determine the Landlord’s accountability to remedy or with an understanding to record them. This list of defects must be attached to the lease as an annexure.
2.1.2. Outgoing Inspection
On the termination of the lease, the Landlord and the Tenant must organize a joint inspection at a reciprocally suitable time, with the view to establish what damage was caused throughout the Tenant’s occupation.
If the Tenant fail to reply to the Landlord’s demand for an inspection, the Landlord must examine the property within 7 days after the expiration, in order to evaluate any damage or loss.
2.2.1. To be advanced by the Landlord/Agent in an interest-bearing account. 2.2.2. The Landlord can use the deposit plus interest to the payment of all amounts for which the tenant is accountable under the lease.
2.2.3. Balance of the deposit to be repaid to the Tenant not later than 14 days after refurbishment of the property’s damage and arrear payments. 2.2.4. If nothing owing by the Tenant to the Landlord, then deposit plus interest to be repaid within 7 days after termination of lease.
2.3. CREDIT CHECKS
Landlords need to obtain consent from the Tenants to attend to credit, background, financial and reference checks.
2.4. TENANTS AND LANDLORDS FAMILIARISE WITH RULES AND LAWS
Tenants and landlords should familiarise themselves with the rules and laws pertaining to rentals so that they do not end up in a situation where they are being treated unfairly or exploited.
2.5. LEASE AGREEMENT
Prevention being better than cure…
Start off with a properly-worded, clear and comprehensive lease. Make sure you comply with Rental Housing Act basics like joint inspections for damage, investment and refund of deposits, avoiding unfair practices and so on.
For most disputes however, both landlords and tenants should seriously consider following the quick, cheap and easy Tribunal route.
(NOTE: this article is for information purposes only. Each case depends on merits of matter and should be consulted with an attorney)