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Rental Housing Amendment Bill

The Rental Housing Amendment Bill was accepted by the National Assembly on 9 September 2014. It was however recalled for argument after just a few days. The main reason for further argument at this stage was that the committee wanted to do away with the term ‘Landlord’ since it is not seen as a gender-neutral term. The term ‘Landowner’ was accepted in the latest version of the Bill, but was still under review. The Bill was expected to be enacted as soon as early 2015 but this has yet to happen.
The Amendment Bill will have a significant impact on lease agreements since it would require lease agreements to be in writing if they are to be enforceable. The Bill allows for a six-month grace period, from enactment, for landlords to comply with the Act. With this in mind, it is advisable to pre-empt the enactment of the RHAB by taking the necessary steps in time to avoid the risk of having to get written agreements signed at the last minute.
Some aspects of the Amendment Bill that could significantly impact on evictions are worth pointing out and include the following:
• The Rental Housing Tribunal would have to refer a matter, where eviction is the only potential outcome, to a competent Court within one month. This is a very positive amendment as it would shorten the waiting period before eviction proceedings can be instituted when a matter is pending in the Tribunal;
• The Tribunal will still not have jurisdiction to grant eviction orders;
• Arbitrary evictions are criminalised. This has the implication that a landlord that reverts to methods such as lock-out, disconnecting utility supply, taking occupation of the premises with the occupants to get an illegal occupant out of the premises and so on, would not only face a spoliation order, but also criminal charges. When found guilty of this crime a landlord would have a criminal record and could serve a jail sentence of up to a year.

(Extract from The Landlord’s Guide)

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