Problems cited in housing rental bill

By Time of article published Dec 8, 2011

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Donwald Pressly

The Rental Housing Amendment Bill, which will establish a tribunal to resolve disputes in each of the nine provinces, was likely to pass through Parliament by the end of the current financial year, human settlements portfolio committee chairwoman Nomhle Dambuza said yesterday.

The aim is to have a more efficient system of rental dispute resolution between tenants and owners, both for formal and informal housing in urban areas.

In a submission to the committee by Ilze Mathese of the corporate services centre in the legal services division of Western Cape Premier Helen Zille’s office, the province argued that an amendment in the bill was problematic.

Mathese argued that clause two of the bill proposed that a section of the Rental Housing Act of 1999 be amended to give a landlord the right – on termination of a lease – to repossess rental housing property after obtaining a ruling by the proposed tribunal or an order of court. This provision implied that a landlord would not be able to regain possession of his rental housing property on the termination of a lease “without first obtaining a court order or a tribunal ruling even if a tenant voluntarily vacates the rental housing property”.

The Western Cape government argued that the amendment was also in conflict with another amendment proposed in the legislation. This read that the tribunal “must refer any matter that relates to evictions to a competent court”.

The Commission for Gender Equality also questioned this amendment, arguing that in its current form it was “ambiguous”. The intention of the amendment was to protect the tenant against unlawful evictions and also allow for the landlord or tenant to approach a rental housing tribunal for an order in respect of disputes relating to repossession, it noted.

The commission proposed that the landlord would be able to repossess “after having first obtained a ruling by the tribunal or an order of court”.

The debate on the legislation will continue in the new session of Parliament next year. The legislation, tabled by Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale, aims to make the establishment of rental housing tribunals in every province mandatory.

Once promulgated the bill will require the provincial housing MECs to establish such tribunals.

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