Legal Talk Rental Housing Act

The National Government passed the Rental Housing Act No 50 of 1999 and this came into force on the 1 August 2000. In terms of this Act, the various Provincial Legislatures were authorised and empowered to enact Infair Practices Regulation and the Gauteng Provincial Government had these regulations passed in July 2001. It appears that most of the other provinces had enacted their respective Unfair Practices Regulation and established Rental Housing Tribunals.

The aims and objects of the Act and the Regulations are essentially to promote rental housing, to bring about stability in the field of landlord and tenant relationships, secure the rights of tenants and landlords, to prevent the existence of unfair practices between such landlords and tenants, and to provide for the establishment of Rental Housing Tribunals which would resolve disputes between landlords and tenants.

In some respects one can safely say that the sanctity of the contract is no longer inviolate. The Constitutional Law Rights are entrenched when the Act provides for non-discrimination of tenants on the grounds of race, gender, sex, marital status, ethnic or social origins, sexual orientation, colour and age. The common law is entrenched when it provides for payment of rentals, the re-possession of the property at the termination of the lease and the receipts of the property in the same condition in which it was let at the inception of the lease, fair wear and tear expected. The following provisions of the Act and the Regulations make inroads into the common law:

  • 1. The right of the landlord to terminate does not constitute an unfair practice.
  • 2. If there is a written lease which provides for the escalation of rentals, then such escalations must be reasonable.
  • 3. The landlord and the tenant are compelled to inspect the premises at the inception of the lease and also at the termination thereof in order to ascertain the existence of any defects and if the landlord fails to inspect the premises at the termination of the lease, then he/she will have no claim against the tenant in respect of any damage alleged to have been brought into existence by the tenant. Should the tenant fail to inspect the premise at the termination of the lease, then the landlord is unilaterally entitled to establish any damage alleged to have been caused by the tenant.
  • 4. Deposits have to be paid into interest-bearing accounts.
  • 5. In its investigations of an unfair practice, the Tribunal may make a ruling to terminate exploitative rentals and also make a determination in regard to the amount of rentals payable by the tenants.
  • 6. The imposition of a penalty for the late payment of rent whether or not the penalty take the form of an administrative charge or any other form other than interest, is prohibited.
  • 7. If a landlord does not sign and deliver a written lease agreement, signed and delivered to the landlord by a tenant, acceptance of rental by the landlord gives the lease agreement the same effect as if it had been signed and delivered by he landlord.
  • 8. If a tenant does not sign and deliver a written lease agreement signed and delivered to the tenant by the landlord, acceptance of possession of the dwelling and payment of rents gives the lease agreement the same effect as if it were signed and delivered by the tenant.
  • 9. In so far as municipal services are concerned, the landlord is only entitled to charge for such services in accordance with meter readings where meters exist but if meters do not exist, then in accordance with municipal charges and this appears to exclude any charges levied for administrative purposes in connection with such services. The landlord is further enjoined to provide details such as previous and current months' readings.
  • 10. Neither the landlord nor the terminate can engage in oppressive or unreasonable conduct.
  • 11. Both parties are prohibited from conduct any activity, which unreasonably interferes with or limits the rights of either party.
  • 12. The exercise of any right or obligation in terms of the Act or in terms of the Regulations, or any other law, imposed a duty and an obligation on both parties to act in good faith in the performance or enforcement of such rights or obligations.

The tribunal is empowered to make a ruling, which it considers to be just and fair, and not only that but also so as to resolve matters in a practicable and equitable manner.

Courtesy The Agent Estate Agency Affairs Board

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