What does the rental housing tribunal do in South Africa?

Demystifying the Rental Housing Tribunal in South Africa

The Rental Housing Tribunal in South Africa is a crucial bridge in maintaining a good relationship between tenants and landlords. As an independent body, they are able to resolve disputes that may arise within the realm of rental residential dwellings. Established under the ambit of the Rental Housing Act, the tribunal is an impartial, free and effective dispute resolution service that is available across all provinces.

The tribunal has the authority to impose fines, make determinations of fair rentals, and stop people from taking the law into their own hands (spoilation orders).

Navigating Landlord-Tenant Disputes: The Role of the Rental Housing Tribunal

For both tenants and landlords, understanding the processes involved in lodging complaints with the Rental Housing Tribunal is essential. The tribunal allows both tenants and landlords to log a complaint. Common complaints include:

  • Maintenance and unacceptable living conditions, such as overcrowding or hygienic issues.
  • Unacceptable living conditions and insufficient maintenance or repairs of a property.
  • Non-payment of rent – Not paying rent to the landlord, eviction and cutting off of utilities without a court order.
  • Deposit issues – Issues relating to not refunding a deposit of the tenant and damage to a property

What Powers Does The Rental Housing Tribunal Have?

The rulings passed by the tribunal hold the same weight as judgments issued by the Magistrates’ Court. The tribunal’s multifaceted powers encompass summonsing parties to hearings, issuing interdicts to enforce compliance with the law, and even determining fair rental rates.

The dispute resolution process of the rental housing tribunal

The tribunal wants to avoid court cases and arbitration. It, therefore, starts with a mediation phase where they attempt to mediate and resolve the issues before escalating to arbitration.

At this point, the mediator doesn’t have any powers to make a ruling, however, they encourage dialogue and a proposed settlement. If the parties settle, then the process stops here. If the parties cannot get to a point of reconciliation, then it is referred for arbitration.

The arbitration phase is more like a court case. Each party can give evidence, call witnesses and cross-examine witnesses. Once everything is on the table, the arbitrator will pass down judgment.

The dispute resolution steps

  1. After a complaint is received, a file for each complainant will be opened. A letter is sent to all parties which outlines the nature of the complaint
  2. The tribunal will conduct a preliminary investigation
  3. A mediation session will be arranged to try and resolve the matter. If no agreement is reached, the matter will be referred for a tribunal hearing or arbitration
  4. Once arbitration has taken place, a binding ruling will be handed down to both parties

If one of the parties is dissatisfied with the outcome, he/she can have the matter reviewed by a High Court

Rental Housing Tribunal vs. Commercial Properties: Understanding the Scope

Issues between a tenant and landlord affect someone’s safety and security – the place they can call their home. Because this is such a sensitive matter, the RHT focuses on residential properties and disputes. Their jurisdiction doesn’t extend to commercial/industrial properties.

Commercial rentals fall under their own jurisdiction and therefore need to use their own legal channels for conflict resolution.

What Do You Need To Lodge A Complaint With the Rental Housing Tribunal?

The following documentation is required to lodge a complaint:

  • Your ID or passport
  • The lease agreement (if there is one)
  • Proof of applicable payments
  • Proof of the physical address of both parties
  • Contact telephone numbers of both parties


In conclusion, the Rental Housing Tribunal in South Africa stands as a vital institution that focuses on restoring relationships between tenants and landlords within the realm of residential rental dwellings. Established under the Rental Housing Act, it provides an impartial platform for resolving disputes, ensuring fairness and adherence to legal regulations across all provinces. With the authority to impose fines, determine fair rental rates, and prevent unlawful actions, the tribunal’s rulings hold equal weight to those of the Magistrates’ Court, underscoring its significance in dispute resolution.

Happy investing!