There’s no reason to run from Rental Tribunals

The words “rental tribunal” are apt to strike fear into the hearts of both landlords and tenants, but there is actually nothing at all scary about the way these organisations resolve rental complaints and disputes. And their service is free to all parties.
“The provincial Rental Tribunals established in terms of the Rental Housing Act of 1999 are in fact some of the best examples we have in SA of how fair the application of the law can be in practice,” says Andrew Schaefer, MD of leading national property management company Trafalgar.
“These tribunals are made up of independent experts from civil society whosefunction is to end unfair practices and resolve tenant and landlord disputes by objectively applying the provisions of the Act and the specific rental housing regulations for that province – not by subjectively trying to decide who is right and who is wrong.
“In short, the tribunals are impartial, their decisions are equitable, and the process they follow to reach these decisions is highly accessible (free) and totally transparent. Credibility is a big plus.”
Another advantage of taking a landlord/ tenant dispute to a Rental Tribunal, he says, is that it takes the “heat” out of the argument and can prevent much unpleasantness and personal enmity. “The tribunals will always try to achieve a mediated solution before setting up a hearing, and many matters are actually resolved at this stage simply because the parties are given a chance to calm down and look at things from a different perspective.The participation of an independent and credible third party is always helpful.”
However, says Schaefer, any ruling that is made by a Rental Tribunal is final and binding. “It carries the same weight as an Order of Court made by a magistrate’s court, so anyone who does not comply with it risks having to pay a large fine or even imprisonment. And that means that any instruction given by a Rental Tribunal to end an unfair practice or a dispute tends to be followed.”
As for the sort of unfair practices and problems the tribunals can deal with, he says, there is a very long list, includingthe non-payment of rental due, no refund of a security deposit, overcrowding, unlawful seizure of a tenant’s goods, illegal lockout, tenants engaging in nuisance behaviour, maintenance not being attended to and rental increases deemed excessive.
“And it is easy to set the resolution process in motion. All the tenant or the landlord has to do is lodge a complaint with their local Rental Tribunal, and a case manager will take it from there. A file with all the details of the complaint and any counter-complaints will be opened, then all the relevant parties will be informed in writing aboutwhere and when the matter will be mediated or heard, and what information or witnesses they need to bring.
“Consequently, we believe that both tenants and landlords have everything to gain by making use of the Rental Tribunals instead of taking matters into their own hands when a dispute arises - although it can unfortunately take a several weeks for a matter to be resolved in some of the larger offices due to the large volume of cases they are dealing with.”

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