The Rental Housing Amendment Act - waiting for a light in the dark?

The relationship between a landlord and tenant can be difficult at the best of times. For this reason, many of us are on the edge of our seats waiting for the Rental Housing Amendment Act (RHAA) to finally come into force. 

Once enforced, the Act gazetted in 2013 aims to regulate the often tenuous relationship between tenants and landlords with more efficiency. Michelle Dickens, MD of TPN Credit Bureau clarifies what this means in practical terms, “The amendments in the RHAA ensure that both the tenant and the landlord, or the agent acting on the landlord’s behalf, are fully accountable. In effect, this means that the relationship will be more properly regulated and fully documented.” 

When it comes to the actual lease agreement, Michelle explains that “it will now be the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that a lease agreement is in writing. Previously, verbal lease agreements were considered binding but this will not be the case going forward.”

The rights and duties of both the landlord and the tenant must now be set out in detail in the format prescribed in the RHAA, in writing. Rental and all other amounts payable must be itemised in the agreement and the tenant will not be liable for any charge that has not been specified. At any time, the tenant may also demand proof in the form of receipts or invoices of charges levied by either the landlord or an agent acting on the landlord’s behalf.

One of the further ways in which the relationship will be more closely regulated is through the definition of “unfair practice.” An unfair practice is defined as an act or omission by a landlord or tenant in contravention of the RHAA and a practice that unreasonably prejudices the rights of a tenant or landlord. 

The effect of this is that both the tenant and the landlord must act reasonably at all times when dealing with one another and both the tenant and the landlord can be guilty of an unfair practice which upon the enforcement of the RHAA, becomes a criminal offence.

For example, if the landlord cuts off the electricity supply or changes the locks, this constitutes an unfair practice. An example of a tenant who engages in unfair practice is the failure to grant reasonable access to the property to the landlord or agent. 

Lock-outs have always been illegal but the RHAA now includes a definition of “arbitrary eviction.” An arbitrary eviction is more than just a lock-out; it involves making a tenant’s life so difficult that there is no choice but to vacate. An example would be removing the front door or preventing access by changing the gate remote code. 

On top of that, the definition of “maintenance” now makes it clear that it is exclusively the landlord’s obligation to ensure that the property is fit or suitable for the tenant to live in at all times. The landlord must therefore maintain the existing structure of the property and facilitate the provision of utilities to the property. In the past, the landlord could provide that the maintenance is the responsibility of the tenant by including it as a provision in the lease agreement. But in terms of the RHAA, a landlord can no longer maintain the property via proxy. 

If an issue arises regarding the structural elements of the property, the landlord is required to determine whether the tenant intentionally or negligently caused the damage. For example, was a door destroyed in a moment of anger? If so, it would indicate that there was an intention to do harm. Negligence would involve doing something without taking proper precautions such as not securing a window which slams shut in a storm and shatters as a result. If the tenant has not intentionally or negligently damaged the property, the structural repairs are automatically for the account of the landlord.
In an unexpected move by Legislature, the RHAA has gone so far as to touch on the issue of deceased and insolvent estates. The deposit paid by a tenant, together with any interest accrued thereon, shall not form part of the assets of the insolvent or deceased estate of the landlord.

Finally, the RHAA vastly extends the ambit of the Rental Housing Tribunal (RHT). In the past, where a dispute was decided by the RHT although the ruling was equivalent to an Order of the Magistrates Court there was no allowance for an appeal or review process. 

Michelle clarifies this distinction for us, “the RHAA now allows for any person who feels aggrieved by a decision to file an appeal within 21 days of receipt of the decision. Further to that, aggrieved parties also have the ability to demand a review of the procedural aspects of their hearing ensuring that the jurisdiction of the RHT is now fully aligned with that of the Magistrates Court. The difference between an appeal and a review process is that a review only deals with the procedural aspects of a case whereas an appeal deals with the facts of the case.”

Once in force, the RHAA brings far more clarity to the practical aspects of the relationship between tenants and landlords. This in turn will assist anyone involved in the property industry to more expediently deal with matters that have, up until now, been the cause of confusion and led to disputes between the parties. For landlords and tenants who have experienced the reality of such difficulties, the RHAA most certainly seems to shine a much needed light on what was previously a rather ambiguous landscape.

About TPN:

TPN was started in 2000 as a Tenant Profile Network and is now a registered Credit Bureau. The company developed the only trusted rental payment profile database of its kind in South Africa. The TPN database combines information from TPN and other highly valuable sources, such as Experian and TransUnion, to provide the most comprehensive behavioural profiles on tenants and prospective buyers in the property industry today. 

For more information please visit, follow TPN on twitter @tpnadvice, or visit our Facebook page.  

  Comment on this Article

  Please login to post comments

Post to my facebook wall
Characters remaining

    Latest Property News
    • 23 Nov 2017
      If you are looking to sell your home in today’s real estate market, there are certain things that you need to include both inside and outside your house. Today’s generation of home buyers is looking toward a more eco-friendly, energy and water conscious home, and if your house stands out then you are more likely to be able to sell it.
    • 22 Nov 2017
      Most people know of the Community Schemes Ombud Service (CSOS) and that levies must to paid to fund its operations. In this article the experts at Paddocks will address some of the issues that are causing confusion.
    • 22 Nov 2017
      While sales have noticeably slowed in most sectors in most Cape town suburbs, the security estate sector in Constantiaberg has bucked the trend by remaining buoyant, with sales by August this year already surpassing total sales in 2016.
    • 22 Nov 2017
      The end of the year is fast approaching, and so are all the travellers, tourists and holidaymakers. For those who live near or own a property in a holiday-hotspot, the festive season also brings with it an abundance of short-term rental opportunities. Its a great way for property owners to make a few extra rand for their own holidays or to put towards their savings.
    • 21 Nov 2017
      The buying process is over, and the moving truck has delivered your household goods to your new property. Now it’s time to unpack and turn your new house into a home.
    • 21 Nov 2017
      When an offer to purchase a property is signed by both buyer and seller, this constitutes a binding agreement or “Deed of Sale” between the two parties. However, in most cases the “standard contract” might not be enough to cover all the specifics pertaining to the sale. The agreement may require some additions or alterations to clauses, which needs an expert hand in the drafting of such
    • 21 Nov 2017
      As more and more South Africans look to invest in property abroad, Spain is offering them one of the best deals in global real estate.
    • 20 Nov 2017
      Since 2012, sectional title complexes have been leading the South African property market, not only in terms of price growth, but sales volumes as well. Remaining relatively strong, even in the face of 2017’s political and economic turmoil, experts say this market segment could offer valuable insight into South Africans’ property purchase priorities.
    Subscribe to the MyProperty Newsletter

    Last Name  
    Email Address  
    Email Frequency
    Share this Page

    For Sale Property
    Rental Property
    More Options
    Connect with us