The words “rental tribunal” sometimes strike fear into the hearts of landlords and tenants, but in reality, there is nothing to fear.
Andrew Schaefer, managing director of property management company Trafalgar, said the service of these organisations is free.
“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,” he said in a statement.
The tribunals comprise independent experts whose function is to end unfair practices and resolve disputes by applying the act and specific rental regulations for that province — not by subjectively trying to decide who is right and who is wrong.
“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,” said Schaefer.
Another advantage is it takes the “heat” out of an 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”
A ruling 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;’ said Schaefer. Some of the issues that tribunals deal with include non-payment of rental, deposit refund, overcrowding, unlawful seizure of a tenant’s goods, illegal lockout, nuisance behaviour, lack of maintenance and rental increases deemed excessive.
“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. All relevant parties will be informed in writing about where and when the matter will be mediated or heard, and what information or witnesses they need to bring.”
Schaefer said 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.
— Article written in the WITNESS WEEKEND, Your Money – p.12 – 28 Jun 2014 – BUSINESS EDITOR