Rawson MD welcomes amendments to Rental Housing Act

Tony Clarke, MD of Rawson Properties, has welcomed the amendments to the Rental Housing Act.

“We are happy that the role of the Rental Housing Tribunal has been clarified, giving the rental housing tribunal the powers of a magistrate's court. Unfortunately, the Tribunal is still unable to evict tenants,” said Clarke.

Clarke explains that landlords have been struggling with the unintended application of the Prevention of Illegal Evictions and Unlawful Occupation (PIE) Act, since 2002 when the Appeal Court ruled that it also applies to occupants of rented houses and flats.

“Landlords must go through a tedious and expensive process of eviction, and we have been waiting for the promised amendments to the PIE Act for some time.”

Clarke adds that the amended Act tightens the Rental Housing Tribunal’s control of recalcitrant tenants, but criminalises certain methods of “punishing” the tenant who has defaulted.

“The amended Act protects the tenant’s property and rights to utilities, landlords that wish to take action against tenants, are now forced to do so via the Rental Housing Tribunal.”

Clarke highlighted the following as being the most significant changes.

· The Rental Housing Tribunal now has the power to issue attachment orders for seizing movables in rental property when the tenant has defaulted on payments. The tribunal also has the power to issue spoilation orders and interdicts – and its rulings are enforceable under the Magistrate’s Courts Act. “This effectively means that the Rental Housing Tribunal has the power to issue court orders to both landlords and tenants and the Tribunal needs to be consulted before steps are taken against tenants.”

· Landlords now may only collect lease costs from the tenant upon furnishing proof of actual expenditure. “This is to protect tenants from landlords who charge fees, without actually spending the money themselves.”

· Landlords may not shut off utilities like water and electricity to leased premises no matter how great the rent arrears. Landlords are now also not allowed to change locks and lock out a tenant.

“The amended Rental Housing Act formalises the relationship between the landlord and the tenant and ensures that there is a Tribunal available to mediate any disputes between parties. The major advantage of the Tribunal as a body for resolving disputes, is that it is free of charge and judgements are reach much sooner than in the Magistrate Court, as they have a set deadline by which to resolve matters.

“The only shortcoming that I can see in the above legislation, is that although the tenant’s rights is very much protected and landlords now have a legal recourse to seize possessions, the major problem of tenant eviction still has not been addressed. We hope that the long-awaited PIE Act adjustments will be passed shortly.”

Article by: www.rawsonproperties.com