Rental Housing Tribunal

What to do if your landlord is violating your rights

By | Rental Housing Act, Rental Housing Tribunal, Tenants

The Rental Housing Tribunal is there to help

The housing crisis in South Africa has led to a shortage of affordable housing options, resulting in many individuals living in overcrowded or unsafe conditions. This has also created challenges for landlords who struggle to find suitable tenants. To address some of these issues, the Rental Housing Act was passed in 1999. However, many people are still not aware of their tenant rights, concerned instead about their responsibilities. 

Tenants have a lot of obligations, dictated by the lease agreement. First and foremost, they have a duty to pay rent at a set time every month. They also have a responsibility to keep the property in good order and report any breakages or other problems to the landlord. They must abide by the terms of the lease agreement; only use the property for its intended purpose (e.g., not use a residential property for commercial purposes); and not breach any other conditions of occupancy (e.g., keeping pets if not permitted). It’s easy to think the landlord has all the rights and the tenant has all the responsibilities. But tenants also have rights, and the law is very clear on the recourse available to tenants should the landlord violate those rights.

Tenants’ rights

The tenant has the right to a property that is habitable and in good condition. Unacceptable living conditions, such as overcrowding or hygiene issues, are a breach of tenant rights. A habitable property means the landlord maintains the property and makes repairs when necessary. The landlord may not disconnect essential services, even if the rent has not been paid. The tenant also has a right to receipts or statements with regard to payments made, i.e., for rent and utilities, etc. The tenant has the right to not be discriminated against, on the grounds of race, sex, sexual preference, religion, etc. The tenant has the right not to be unlawfully evicted, i.e., without the correct legal process having been followed. The landlord may not change the locks or seize the tenant’s possessions, or put belongings out on the street. 

The landlord also may not increase the rent by an unfair amount or outside the time period indicated in the lease. For example, most leases allow for a set percentage increase on the renewal of the lease, usually at the annual anniversary. The landlord may not arbitrarily increase the rent without adhering to those conditions. And lastly, at the end of the tenancy, the tenant has a right to the return of the deposit, after deductions for any damages.

What to do if the landlord violates these rights

In the first instance, we always advise landlords and tenants to talk to each other. Most issues can be resolved by good communication, and many disputes are the result of misunderstanding or poor communication. So if you find your rights have been or are being violated, try to initiate a conversation with your landlord to resolve the matter. If they are not open to dialogue, or if a frank discussion doesn’t clear things up, further channels are available.

Role of Rental Housing Tribunal

The function of the Rental Housing Tribunal is dispute settlement between tenants and landlords. The service is free to both parties and is supported by the Department of Human Settlements. The Tribunal’s role is to:

  • Harmonise relationships between landlords and tenants in the rental housing sector
  • Resolve disputes that arise due to unfair practices
  • Inform landlords and tenants about their rights and obligations in terms of the Rental Housing Act
  • Make recommendations to relevant stakeholders

How to lodge a complaint with the Rental Housing Tribunal

Anyone can lodge a complaint with the Rental Housing Tribunal and there is no need for legal representation. Complaint forms can be found on the Human Settlements website. Documents should be lodged with the Tribunal, including a copy of the lease and ID document, and any supporting documentation (rental statements, letters of request for repairs, etc.). The Tribunal will review the complaint to determine if there is a legitimate dispute. While waiting for the Tribunal’s ruling, the landlord may not commence eviction proceedings, the tenant must continue to pay rent, and the landlord must continue to maintain the property. 

If the Tribunal determines the complaint is genuine, it will attempt to resolve the dispute through mediation. If mediation is unsuccessful, the next step is arbitration (i.e., a hearing designed to resolve disputes), which both landlord and tenant must attend. The Tribunal’s ruling at the hearing is binding on both parties. Failure by either party to abide by the Tribunal’s ruling may result in criminal proceedings. A ruling by the Rental Housing Tribunal is considered an order of the Magistrate’s Court. As such, it can be appealed in the High Court.

Court vs. Tribunal

There are a few instances in which a court of law can be used to solve a complaint rather than the Tribunal. If the tenant is in rental arrears, the landlord may go to court to claim the amount owed, but only if unfair practice is not involved. If the landlord has grounds for eviction, they must go to court for an eviction order. The Tribunal’s powers do not extend to granting an order to evict a tenant. For all issues involving a breach of tenant rights, the Rental Housing Tribunal is the appropriate vehicle for resolution.

For further information

Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. is a law firm of specialist eviction lawyers in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, helping both landlords and tenants with rental housing matters. Contact one of our eviction attorneys on 086 099 5146 or if you need advice on any aspect of rental housing or landlord–tenant relations.

Further reading:

Practical tips for tenants and landlords from the Gauteng Rental Housing Tribunal

By | Lease Agreement, Rental Housing Tribunal, Tenants

This article appeared in the Sowetan Live and contains tips for tenants and landlords for a successful tenancy. We agree with these points but would add that the landlord-tenant relationship is more complex than this short article might suggest. It’s always wise to consult an attorney to make sure your lease agreement is watertight, whether you are landlord or tenant.  

Reprinted from the Sowetan – 2022-06-13

Tips for tenants

  • Create a master file for your lease agreement, the form of communication and correspondence with your landlady/landlord, receipts, rent statements and joint entry inspection checklists.
  • Establish upfront whether rent is inclusive of municipal services.
  • Your deposit should be kept in an interest-bearing account held by a financial institution and tenants have a right to request a statement of the interest earned on the money at any time during their tenancy. The deposit and its interest should be paid out to the tenant when the lease agreement expires.
  • Use tribunal information offices situated in different municipal offices across Gauteng for advice.

Tips for landlords

  • Act immediately once a tenant fails to pay rent by approaching the tribunal for an order instead of resorting to self-help mechanisms that are unlawful.
  • Issue receipts as proof of payment of rent.
  • Keep a record of municipal statements.

Types of disputes received by the tribunal in 2021 

Non-payment of rent = 37.78%

Deposit = 13.7%

Eviction = 10.94%

Cut off of services = 9.67%

Lockout = 7.5%

Lease = 7.38%

Charges rental/services = 5.7%

Maintenance = 3.29%

Attachment = 2.47%

Damages = 1.56%

For help with any rental property issues

Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. is a Cape Town law firm of specialist eviction lawyers, now operating in Johannesburg and Durban. We help both landlords and tenants with rental property issues. If you need advice on any aspect of a lease or landlord-tenant relations, contact one of our attorneys on 086 099 5146 or

Further reading:

Tenant selection and unfair discrimination

Tenant red flags and how to avoid them

Tenants out in the cold after landlord evicts them for unpaid rent

By | Eviction news, Evictions, Rental Housing Tribunal

Tenants evicted for unpaid rent. In our blog we have covered the lockdown rules at some length, particularly as they pertain to evictions. Although an eviction case can be commenced under level 3 regulations, no eviction orders may be executed. Yet some landlords are not behaving within the law. Given the very cold conditions experienced in Gauteng at present, and the rapid increase in COVID-19 infections, this is particularly irresponsible and uncaring social conduct. 

Reprinted from the SowetanLive, by Noxolo Majavu 2020-07-14

Tenants evicted for unpaid rent
Residents say they are being intimidated by their landlord. Image: 123RF/ANDRIY POPOV

Residents of Bramley in Johannesburg are scouting for homes after their landlord evicted them because of unpaid rent. The tenants are mostly foreign nationals and restaurant workers and bartenders that do not receive much of an income during lockdown.

The tenants alleged that they were victimised by the property owner weeks before the eviction because of not being able to afford rent.

“My wife was forced to write a letter saying that she is moving out voluntarily out of the premises, and was threatened to sleep in the room with two men,” said Caswell Chauke.

Chauke said he went to a funeral and when he came back, he could not get into his room because it was locked. “The property owner told me that I will not get my belongings and furniture until I pay,” said Chauke.

“They locked us in the yard like prisoners, we tried to negotiate with the landlord but she would not listen,” said another tenant, Reginald Malatsi.

The tenants opened a case of intimidation at the Bramley police station after they were threatened by bouncers sent by the landlord to demand money. Two of the bouncers got arrested but were released the next morning. “When we went to inquire about the case we were told that there was not enough evidence and so the case was closed,” said Chauke .

Sowetan tried to contact the property owner, Ester Bughai, but she said that she did not have time to comment. National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Phindile Mjonodwane showed Sowetan the case docket in question.

Tahir Seema, a representative from the Gauteng Rental Tribunal, said: No evictions can take place with or without a court order during the lockdown period. This is in terms of lockdown regulations.”

Seema added that evictions done without a court order are illegal and the tenants are welcomed to lodge a complaint with the Gauteng Rental Housing Tribunal (RHT) for urgent relief.

“Complaints in this regard can be lodged via the RHT central email address – Once the matter is heard a ruling will be issued by the RHT that is equal to that of a magistrate’s court,” Seema added.

Are you facing unlawful eviction?

Simon Dippenaar & Associates, Inc. is a firm of specialist eviction lawyers, based in Cape Town and now operating in Johannesburg and Durban, helping both landlords and tenants with the eviction process. Contact one of our attorneys on 086 099 5146 or if you need advice on the eviction process or if you are facing unlawful eviction.

Further reading: