Making a complaint at the Rental Housing Tribunal

Sections in this chapter:

Introduction

The Rental Housing Tribunal (RHT) is a decision-making body comprising of five members appointed by Government, who each have expertise in housing. These members are independent and do not work for the housing department.

Settling disputes at the RHT is a free process that does not require a lawyer and is usually quicker than going to court.

Sometimes disputes between tenants and landlords cannot be resolved through meaningful engagement. In such cases the RHT investigates and tries to resolve the issues. Having your dispute heard is free and does not require a lawyer, although you can have one present if you want. A decision by the RHT carries the same weight as a court order, but the process is usually quicker.

Important restrictions

  • If your landlord has started eviction proceedings against you (you have received a document saying you have to go to court) or if your lease has already expired or been terminated then you cannot go to the Rental Housing Tribunal.
  • If you have already made a complaint at the Rental Housing Tribunal your landlord cannot start eviction proceedings in court against you for three months or until the Tribunal has made a decision in your matter

Tribunal Contact Information

Anyone can contact or approach the RHT at any time for enquiries or general information regarding their rights and duties as a tenant or landlord. Once you have decided what category your complaint falls under and filled out the relevant forms, you should visit their offices to submit your complaint in person and ask any questions you may have about the process.

Telephone:
0860 106 1666
Please call me:
079 769 1207
SMS "Help" to:
310222
Hours:
Mon–Fri, 7:30AM–3PM

How to make a complaint

Identify your complaint

Use the list of Tribunal Complaints to check if your complaint is valid. If you are unsure about whether you have a valid complaint, submit it anyway. The Tribunal will tell you if it is valid or not.

Complete the relevant forms

When making a complaint, you must always fill in the Main Complaint form. That form must then be accompanied by the specific complaint form or forms related to your problem. You can make multiple complaints.

Info and documents you will need to make a complaint at the RHT:
  • Official ID / Passport / Permit
  • Your contact details
  • Your landlords contact details
  • Copies of your lease (if there is one)
  • Supporting evidence (photos, payment receipts etc.)
TIP:

You should have three copies of all important documents. Two for the RHT and one for you (you keep the originals).

Submit your documents

Complaint forms, as well as any other relevant supporting documentation, need to be submitted, in person, to the Rental Housing Tribunal.

Steps to take when submitting documents:
  • Make 2 certified copies of all documents
  • Submit 2 copies of all documents to the tribunal
  • Record the date of submission on the original forms (the copy you keep)
  • Record the staff member’s name you submitted to, on the original forms
  • Get written confirmation of your submission from the tribunal (could be a letter or a stamp)
  • Keep all original documents safe and filed neatly.

The RHT records your complaint

After Tribunal staff receive your complaint they open a case file and give it a case reference number. Use this number to track your complaint. About two weeks after you submitted your complaint, both you and your landlord should receive a letter from the Tribunal saying that your complaint has been received, and it should include your case reference number.

Follow up with your complaint:

Around the same time as you receive your letter you may get a phone call from a Tribunal staff member. If they call, ask them for their name and for your case reference number. If you have not yet received your letter, ask if they have sent it and ask for the contact details of the case officer assigned to your matter. If you do not hear anything after two weeks - no letter or phone call - you should call the Rental Housing Tribunal to follow-up. Keep following up regularly!

Tribunal staff investigate your complaints

Once the case has been opened, Tribunal staff check whether your complaint qualifies as an unfair practice. This check is called a preliminary investigation. If they need more details, they can ask you and your landlord for more information to help them understand the complaint. Tribunal staff can also get an inspector to inspect the property. If you think it is necessary you must ask that they come and do an inspection.

Tribunal staff decide whether an unfair practice exists

After the investigation, the Tribunal staff decide whether or not the complaint qualifies as an unfair practice. After you submit the complaint, they have 30 days to make a decision. If they do not think your complaint involves an unfair practice, they must send you a letter that gives reasons for their decision. If the Tribunal staff think that an unfair practice may be involved, they will continue to try solve the dispute.

Resolving your dispute at the tribunal

A case officer is appointed to your case. This case officer is supposed to contact you and the landlord. The case officer might first try to resolve the matter by calling you and your landlord to discuss and find a solution that suits both parties. If the matter cannot be resolved then the case officer will decide whether the dispute can be resolved through mediation , or whether a tribunal hearing is required.

Mediation:

Mediation is a meeting where both sides try to come to an agreement with the help of a neutral person. In this case someone from the Tribunal.

Tribunal Hearing:

If mediation fails then the case moves to a Tribunal Hearing. At a hearing both parties share their facts of the dispute to members of the Tribunal board and the board then makes a ruling based on these facts and the circumstances of the case.

Attending Mediation

The mediator listens to both parties and asks questions to help them come to an agreement. If you come to an agreement, you sign the agreement and both parties do what is agreed to. This mediated agreement is binding. It has the same power as a court order. If you do not come to an agreement, the next step is to have a hearing.

You can request a translator or special arrangements for a dissability

If you require a translator or have a disability, ask your case officer to arrange a translator or make special arrangements for your disability during your mediation or Tribunal hearing.

Attending a Tribunal Hearing

If mediation fails, you will be given a hearing date by your case officer. The hearing will be held at the Tribunal office.

In the hearing, each party is asked to share the facts of their case. At least three Tribunal members will be present at the hearing. They ask the parties questions, and may ask for documents to prove your case. It is not as formal as a court hearing, and you do not need to have lawyers or legal representation. However, in some cases it helps to have a lawyer.

After hearing both sides, the Tribunal members make a ruling. The ruling is communicated to the parties a few days after the Hearing. The ruling has the same power as a ruling by a Magistrates’ Court. If you or the landlord would like to challenge the decision, you have to go to the High Court as soon as possible.

High Court Review

If one of the parties is not happy with the decision reached by the Tribunal at the end of this process, they can have the decision reviewed by the High Court. You will need a lawyerfor this.

Report unfair treatment:

If you feel that your complaint has not been dealt with correctly or they closed your case incorrectly, you can report this to Nathan Adriaanse, the Director of Communication and Stakeholder Relations at the Department of Human Settlements. You can also report staff who treat you disrespectfully or unfairly.

Email: nathan.adriaanse@westerncape.gov.za
Tel: +27 (0) 21 483 2868

Complaint forms

Identify all the forms that are relevant to any issues you are having with your landlord. Download the appropriate form or ask for them at the Tribunal office. For example, if you are making a complaint about a rent increase that is too high then you ask for the Main Complaint Form and Form C.

You must always fill in the Main Complaint form. That form must then be accompanied by the specific complaint forms related to your situation.

If your issue is listed below, you have grounds to make a complaint at the Tribunal.
Main

Main Form

This form must be completed and submitted together with any specific complaint forms.

Form A

Failure to refund deposit

Your landlord has not returned your deposit after you’ve left the property.

Form B

Unlawful notice to vacate

You received an unlawful notice to vacate from your landlord.

Form C

Exorbitant increase in rental

Your landlord has increased the rent more than usual or by an unaffordably high amount.

Form D

Failure to accept your notice

Your landlord doesn’t accept that you have decided to leave after giving them your notice and wants you to stay and keep paying rent.

Form E

Municipal services not provided

Your landlord has failed to provide municipal services (e.g. water, refuse and sewerage.)

Form F

Municipal services not paid for by landlord

If the tenant has not paid for municipal services, your landlord can make a complaint against you using this form.

Form G

Failure to do maintenance

Your landlord is failing to do proper and required maintenance on your home.

Form H

Unlawful eviction or lockout

Your landlord has unlawfully evicted you or changed the locks so you can’t get into the house.

Form I

Unilateral changes to agreement

Your landlord has made changes to the lease without your agreement or consent.

Form J

Unlawful entry

Your landlord comes into your home without proper notice, or when you are not at home.

Form K

Unlawful seizure of possessions

Your landlord takes your things from the property or takes things from the property that belong to him but you have a right to use.

Form L

Failure to provide payment receipts

Your landlord refuses to provide you with monthly statements or receipts for payment of rental after you have asked for them.

Form M

Failure to provide copy of lease

Your landlord refuses to give you a copy of the lease.

Form N

Failure to provide a written lease

You have a verbal lease your landlord has a duty to turn it in to a written lease if you ask them.

Form O

Claim for lowering of rental

You think your current rental amount is too high and unfair you can ask for it to be reduced.

Form P

Other complaints

You have any other dispute that is not on this list but you think it is important.

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Proceed to the next chapter
Receiving a notice to vacate