A reader has already approached the Rental Housing Tribunal but wants to know what she can do in the interim about a rental increase of 46 per cent in just 11 months.
Questioning the validity of the landlord’s conduct, she says she cannot afford the constant increases. She adds that the premises are in a poor state and require repairs, but that the landlord does nothing about it.
When she complains about the increases she says she receives threats.
See the reader’s question here.
The nature of the threats made by the landlord is not clear, but if they are of eviction and the like the landlord will have a difficult time trying to successfully evict our reader prior to the intervention of the tribunal.
It seems that the agreement of lease, if there is one, does not state when and how increases are effected by the landlord.
Under the regulations to the Rental Housing Act the landlord is required to give the tenant two months’ notice of an intended increase.
In a matter heard recently in the tribunal (Salie v Kaskar), the Salie family had rented the dwelling in question for decades.
No written agreement of lease was in place and the rental was generally increased by 10 per cent per year.
The tenant decided to take steps when the landlord imposed 25 and 36 per cent increases, the last increase being followed by a notice for the tenant to vacate the dwelling.
The matter was referred to the tribunal, which is permitted to make a determination in respect of rental payable as unfair practice.
In its ruling, the tribunal cited from the Constitutional Court judgment of Maphango v Aengus Lifestyle Properties (Pty) Ltd (2012) where it was said that the Rental Housing Act carefully circumscribes the tribunal’s power in making the determination.
It must be made in a manner that is both just and equitable to both landlord and tenant.
The determination of rent must take cognisance of a number of factors.
These are the prevailing economic conditions of supply and demand, the need for a realistic return on investment for investors in rental housing and various incentives and measures introduced by the housing minister in terms of the policy framework in the act.
In reaching the decision that the rental was not fair, the tribunal also took other factors into account. These included the state of the rented property and that the landlord failed to carry out maintenance.
In the reader’s matter it would appear that similar trends have been followed, albeit over a much shorter period. These are that the property is in need of maintenance and ambitious escalations have been imposed, accompanied by a notice to vacate.
The reader has, on the face of it, taken the correct approach in referring the matter to the tribunal, while it would be prudent for her to seek legal assistance.
If that is not an option she needs to prepare as best as she can by obtaining copies of previous tribunal rulings or court judgments dealing with this type of matter.
Establishing the reasonable market-related rental, value of the property and cost of repairs or maintenance required could all also be of assistance to the tribunal when making a determination.
The reader should take appropriate steps to protect herself and her rights if the threats by her landlord become more personal and violent in nature.
Reporting the matter to the local police will start the appropriate process.
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