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HOUSING PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
1 September 1999
RENTAL HOUSING BILL (B29-99): DISCUSSION
Document handed out
Rental Housing Bill
A departmental official clarified certain chapters of the Rental Housing Bill. The committee decided not to call further public hearings on the Bill.
Mr Thatcher from Legal Services: Department of Housing, answered questions of clarification on the Bill:
Discussion points raised on the definitions in this chapter:
Would the department explain what it means by shack?
Mr Thatcher: The term shack includes any structure that is not of a formal nature.
Dr Pheko (PAC): The term hut (as included in the definition of a dwelling) is a colonial term and we must move away from using those terms. Is there any difference between apartment and flat?
Mr Thatcher: There is no difference between the two terms.
Should we add "hostel" to the definition of a dwelling. Does the term dwelling also include hotel and holiday accommodation?
Mr Thatcher: There is no problem in including hostel in the definition of dwelling but hotel and holiday accommodation is excluded from the definition intentionally.
Mr B Douglas (IFP): Section 2(1)(b) envisages a situation where the government sells rental stock to the private sector. What will happen to the leases of people who had been renting these houses for many years?
Mr Thatcher: Tenants of property sold to another landlord are protected by common law (the Huur gaat verkoop principle) and the new owner has to honour the lease agreement entered between the tenant and seller.
Mr D Lee (DP): Section 2(a)(iii) provides that measure should be introduced to correct distorted patterns. What type of distortions?
Mr Thatcher: It refers to both the apartheid legislation and improper building construction distortions.
What mechanisms will be placed to prevent double subsidisation?
Mr Thatcher: The Minister does have the power to make regulations and that can be covered by those regulations.
Mr T Lee (DP): Section 5(1) provides that the lease need not be in writing. I believe it should be in writing in order to protect the majority of the tenants because the majority of tenants are illiterate?
Ms Mbulawa (ANC): It is risky that lease agreements need not be in writing as we are disadvantaging the people. The tenants’ association is not there when the leases are made, therefore, I propose that this subsection should be changed.
Dr S Pheko: (PAC) I am in favour of the written lease, the oral lease is difficult to prove.
Mr Thatcher: This section provides that, irrespective of whether the lease is in writing or not, all the terms in Section 5(3) will be deemed to be included. That is the compromise that we put. Landlords do not sit down with their tenants when they draw up a lease. If we say it should be in writing, landlords will ensure that everything is in their favour without consulting the tenants. Whatever the law says, the majority of the leases will be unwritten. By accepting unwritten and written leases, we will be protecting the tenants.
Mr W Skhosana: Section 5(3)(g) and 5(3)(m) provides the time period of fourteen days and twenty-one days respectively. I think we should have equal days. Why this difference of seven days.
Mr Thatcher: The reason is that fourteen days is not enough time if the landlord should require quotations.
Mr T Lee: Section 5(3)(d) provides that the deposit should be invested. Why does the section not provide that it should be invested in a separate account?
Mr Thatcher: Property administrators administer many blocks. Will that not put more work on them? That is the reason why we have not said they should open separate accounts. Not all landlords are wealthy. This was the wish of the drafters. Though it is open to discussion.
Has the department estimated costs as to the running of the Rental Housing Tribunal?
Mr Thatcher: The Director-General has to ask each province what is their financial position and the department will increase their budget accordingly if there is a need for a tribunal. There are financial implications, but we have to finance this.
Ms E Phantsi (ANC): In Section 9(4) there is no time frame as to when the MEC must appoint the replacement where one of the members is not available .
Mr Thatcher: I see no reason why the committee cannot set the time frame.
[One month was suggested by the committee members.]
Mr Lee (DP): Should not one of the members of the Tribunal be legally qualified?
Mr Thatcher: The task team resolved that most of the problems are not legal problems (even the determination of the rent). The appointment of a legal person will affect cost. The legal qualified person are excluded.
Mr P De Vos (DP): Section 9(1)(a) provides that the MEC may appoint a person who in his opinion is suitable to be a chairperson. This is a subjective test and I suggest that we remove the words "in opinion of the MEC".
Mr Thatcher: The Director-General mentioned yesterday that the MEC is accountable and it will be at his peril to appoint someone who is not suitable.
Mr P De Vos (DP): Section 17 provides that the proceedings of the Tribunal may be reviewed by the High Court. But the Bill is silent about the right to appeal. There is a difference between appeal and review. With an appeal you bring all facts before the court but with review only the procedure is reviewed for a gross irregularity.
Mr Thatcher: I would like to take the matter to state adviser and I will relay the response of the state law adviser to the chairperson. I think there is no need to put the right to appeal in this Bill because everyone has the right to appeal.
Section 16 does not provide a limit for the fine which can be imposed on a person who contravenes the Bill.
Mr Thatcher: Once a person commits an offence under this Bill he is no longer under the jurisdiction of the Department of Housing but he passes on to the Department of Justice. The state law adviser advised us not to specify an amount.
Public hearings on the Bill
Chairperson, Ms E Hangana: The committee members should indicate whether we should hold public hearing on the Bill:
Mr T Lee (DP): I believe that people should be given the opportunity of a public hearing.
The Committee Clerk advised the member that public comments had been canvassed but the committee could decide whether to call public hearing.
Dr S Pheko: I am in favour of the public hearing. Laws are made for the people.
Mr W Skhosana (ANC): Nothing different will come out even if we decide to call for public hearing.
Mr J Nash (ANC): There has been public comment on the Bill.
There was a motion to put to the vote the issue of whether to have public hearing. Ten voted against a public hearing and seven voted for it. Thus it was decided that there should be no more public hearings.
The meeting was adjourned.
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