The centre’s spokesperson Thabo Ramphobole said they have been instructed by the Poor Flat Dwellers Association, and have sent a letter of demand to the government to demand the reopening.
“The Rental Housing Tribunal was established in all provinces to resolve rental housing disputes and to protect tenants and landlords from unfair practices. Rental Housing Tribunal is empowered to intervene to ensure that unfair practices such as illegal evictions, lockouts and interruptions to supplies of electricity and water are prevented, and to take appropriate steps where these occur,” Ramphobole said.
During the lockdown period, Rental Housing Tribunal offices around the country have remained closed. This is despite the regulations promulgated by the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs – as amended on June 25 – which state that during Lockdown Alert Level 3, public service institutions such as Rental Housing Tribunal, may operate.
“If the tribunals continue to remain closed, it means that unscrupulous landlords may take advantage of tenants, many of whom rely on the protection and assistance provided by the Rental Housing Tribunal, to uphold and enforce their rights.
“The failure to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights of tenants is unconstitutional and unlawful and leaves vulnerable tenants open to possible rights abuses by their landlords, with no recourse other than approaching a court – a costly and often inaccessible route for many poor and vulnerable tenants,” Ramphobole said.
In its letter of demand the Poor Flat Dwellers Association states: “In the circumstances our instructions are to demand, as we hereby do, that steps be taken to re-open the offices of all the Rental Housing Tribunal subject to appropriate safety protocols, in all nine provinces forthwith, but definitely not later than July 13 (today), failing which proceedings will be brought to compel their re-opening.”
Human Settlements’ Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s spokesperson Yonela Diko said the minister had not yet received the letter from the Legal Resources Centre with regards to Rental Housing Tribunal.
“The issue of enforcing lockdown regulations is very critical, particularly on evictions and the Minister is willing to speak to the Legal Resources Centre on how best to ensure people in rental houses don’t fall through the cracks and be subjected to illegal evictions by slumlords.
“The Minister has asked her legal team to arrange a meeting with the Legal Resources Centre to discuss the matter,” Diko said.