An alternative to tedious and often costly court processes has been established in the form of the Rental Housing Tribunal (RHT).
The Free State Department of Human Settlements launched the independent body to resolve disputes between landlords and tenants in residential dwellings.
According to the department’s Chief Director, Makalo Mohale, the body has the same power as the Magistrate’s Court. Landlord and tenant can be summoned by the RHT to attend mediation and tribunal hearings but it cannot evict residents from properties. Landlords and tenants will be able to lodge complaints for unfair practice. The RHT’s services are free and were set up according to the Rental Housing Act.
Dirk Cilliers of National Real Estate said that conflict between tenants and landlords can often come from disagreements over rent payments, maintenance and deposits. “Pictures of the property can be taken beforehand so that by the time tenants sign forms there is proof that they were aware of conditions of the premises as deposits are affected by damages during their stay,” stated Cilliers.
Bloemfontein Courant recently reported on a dispute between a local landlord and tenant where the tenant, Jo-Anne de Bruin, claimed to be treated unfairly after her belongings were damaged during an eviction. De Bruin claimed that she was not given enough time for her and her three children to vacate the premises, while the landlord disputed this. According to De Bruin, she did not pay rent as the house did not have water.
However, according to the tribunal, tenants may not withhold rent and neither can landlords cut off utilities. These are a few of the disputes that the RHT will be mediating over. The entity can be found on the 7th floor of the OR Tambo building in Bloemfontein. According to Mohale the department is working on getting an electronic system so that the tribunal can be accessed from anywhere. – Nomaqhawe Mtebele