Unfortunately, disputes between tenants and their landlords are very common. Some disputes can even escalate to the point where an amicable solution cannot be found between the two parties. In these scenarios it is important to know the lease, know your rights, and involve a professional mediator to help resolve the issues at hand.
To help tenants and landlords resolve disputes somewhat more amicably, RE/MAX of Southern Africa shares the three most important steps to follow when disagreements arise:
- Carefully review the lease agreement
It is important that you know the details of the terms as stated in the lease agreement before you pursue any action toward resolving a dispute. You might think you know what was covered in the contract, but you can sometimes forget the exact terminology in question, and the wording can make a big difference. As you read through the agreement again, explore whether you may be wrong. If you find that you are, simply apologise to your landlord or tenant and negotiate an amicable solution.
“It is important to work with a legal professional or rental expert to have your lease agreement professionally drafted and reviewed before you sign it, as this will be the number one protection for all parties when disputes occur,” warns Goslett.
- Understand your rights
One of the best ways to resolve a rental conflict is to understand the rights of either party in terms of SA law. For example, a tenant has the right not to have their person, property or residence searched without consent or prior agreement. They also have the right not to have their possessions seized without a court order and the right to privacy of communication.
On the other hand, landlords have the right to receive a prompt and regular rental payment, as well as the right to recover a debt after a court order is issued. They also have the right to terminate a lease agreement if any of the terms agreed upon are not honoured by the tenant and to claim compensation for any damages or improvements. Landlords also retain the right to receive their property back in a good state.
- Utilize the Rental Housing Tribunal
When facing a deadlock, landlords and tenants can always seek counsel from the Rental Housing Tribunal (RHT). This can be more favorable than going through the costly process of taking a matter to court. In South Africa, the RHT can proceed to investigate your situation and assist you in resolving the dispute. This also means that your conflict is heard for free and you don’t require a lawyer (but you may have one present if you’d prefer).
Rental disputes are seldom easy to deal with and can be a drain on one’s time. That’s why Goslett recommends partnering with a real estate professional to help manage the rental property on the owners’ behalf. “One of the best ways to maintain healthy rental agreements and to avoid disputes from occurring is to work with a RE/MAX rental agent who can act as the mediator between landlords and tenants and offer advice and support to both parties,” says Goslett.