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Meeting reportPUBLIC SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
7 November 2007
RENTAL HOUSING AMENDMENT BILL: NEGOTIATING MANDATES
Acting Chairperson: Rev P Moatshe (ANC, North West)
Documents handed out:
Rental Housing Amendment Bill [B 30B-2007]
Rental Housing Act,1999
Negotiating Mandates for the following provinces :
The Committee heard the Negotiating Mandates on the Rental Housing Bill. Most provinces supported the main principles of the Bill but had submitted comments detailing the results of their public hearings. Eastern Cape expressed concern about the Tribunals not being accessible. Free State proposed an evaluation of clause 2, a specific prohibition on people renting out RDP houses, and took issue with clause 2(b). Gauteng made a number of proposals: to amend clause 3(a), 3(c) and 6(b). It was pointed out, in relation to clause 6, that there was no proposed correlating amendment to the Magistrates’ Court rules, and it was doubtful whether clause 6 would be effective. Clause 8’s amendments should be deleted. Gauteng also proposed that sections 17 and 13(2) of the principal Act must also be amended. It should be clarified whether the Chairperson of the Tribunal would be elected from the National or Provincial government. Kwazulu Natal suggested amendments to clauses 2(b), 3(a)l, 3(c) and 6(b). It also proposed that Section 17 of the Act be amended. Members discussed the powers of the Tribunal, with some arguing that the Tribunal should not be allowed to evict, and some arguing that further enforcement powers needed to be given to it.
There was some disagreement also as to whether market forces should operate, or whether there should be regulation. Mpumalanaga accepted the amendments. Northern Cape suggested that some further references be inserted in Clause 5(c), and that it should be specified whether emolument attachment orders were included. Western Cape had proposed minor changes of wording to clauses 2 and 3. It was decided that each province must consult with their legal advisors before indicating their final mandates.
Rental Housing Amendment Bill Negotiating Mandates
Rev P Moatshe (ANC, North West) was asked to chair the meeting.
The Acting Chairperson stated that there were some comments on the Bill contained in the Negotiating mandates, and that there was some difference of opinion from the provinces. He asked each delegate therefore to revisit the comments and to meet with various stakeholders to come to a clear understanding of what they wanted to see stipulated in the Bill. He then asked the delegates to report on the mandates.
Mr D Neer (Eastern Cape legislature representative) presented the mandate, which was to the effect that the Bill was welcomed, as it would protect the consumers in the rental industry. Public hearings had been held. Despite its support for the Bill, however, concern was expressed about the Tribunals not being accessible.
Mr C Van Rooyen (ANC, Free State) pointed out that workshops should be held so as to empower the Committee Members as well as the people. All bills, including this one, should be translated into various languages so that they could be understood and accessible to everyone.
He proposed that a new clause should be added after 1 (a), that clause 2 should be evaluated, accommodation should be adapted for disabled people and any reference to people being able to rent out RDP houses should be excluded. He said that he would vote for the Bill with the considered amendments.
Mr T Jeebodt (ANC, Kwazulu-Natal ) contested clause 1 as it should not be relevant. He strongly agreed that RDP houses should not be rented out.
Mr F Adams (ANC, Western Cape) stated that he agreed with Mr Jeebodt
Mr M Mzizi (IFP, Gauteng) and Mr Van Rooyen agreed with clause 2(a).
Mr Van Rooyen found clause 2 (b) to be unacceptable.
Mr Mzizi agreed with Mr van Rooyen that the clause was redundant.
Mr A Watson (DA, Mpumalanga) said that clause 3 existed to protect the landlord and his rights.
Negotiating Mandate of Gauteng
Mr Z Mkhize (ANC, Acting chairperson: Gauteng Housing Portfolio Committee) was in general support of the Bill.
Mr Mzizi noted that this province had held a public hearing. The mandate summarised the main points made during those hearings.
The Committee of the province supported the amendment in most of the clauses. However, it wished to suggest an amendment to clause 3(a), whereby current IT systems and business procedures must be taken into account to reflect that bank deposit slips and electronic fund transfer proof must constitute a receipt. Clause 3(c) was supported in principle, but there should be a further amendment that the costs were in relation to the drawing of a contract of lease. Clause 6(b) should be amended to cover the issuing of spoliation orders, granting of interdicts and making of rulings concerning unlawful attachment of property. In relation to clause 6(c) the comments of the Property Owners submission were pointed out; that there was no amendment being contemplated to the Magistrates’ Court rules, and it was doubtful whether the clause would be effective in the absence of the amendment also to those rules.
The objections of the Gauteng Rental Housing Tribunal in relation to clause 8 of the Bill were set out, and these effectively proposed a deletion of the amendments contained in this clause.
It was noted that the legislature would be acting against landlords who took the law into their own hands. The tenant would not suffer any consequence even if they had no intention of paying for services consumed, or for equally taking the law into their own hands. This was problematic.
Gauteng believed that section 17 of the principal Act should also be amended to make the ruling of the Tribunal subject to both appeal and review.
It also suggested that Section 13(12) of the principal Act be amended to extend the tribunal’s powers to include the power to rescind a ruling based on good cause shown by a party to a ruling.
Mr Mkhize added that the Bill did not clarify whether the Chairperson of the Tribunal would be elected from the National or Provincial government.
The province supported the principle and detail of the Bill.
Mr Mzizi noted that people had been renting out RDP houses. This practice was unlawful and should cease. It was proposed that the Bill be translated into all the official languages so that it could be understood and accessible to everyone.
Mr T Jeebodt (ANC, Kwazulu-Natal) noted the proposal from Kwazulu Natal to amend the following clauses:
Clause 2 (b): to delete words “a ruling by tribunal” so that powers granted to the Tribunal would be removed.
Clause 3 (a) should be amended by addition of the words “and / or” in relation to landlords and tenants. Clause 3 should further be amended, by insertion of a new subparagraph to note that the maximum deposit that could be claimed by the landlord would be equivalent to one month’s rental, and that the deposit should be refunded to the tenant on the day of vacation, provided that there were no amounts due or owing to the landlord in terms of the lease. Clause 3(c) should make the costs of the contract of lease payable by the landlord, and not the tenant.
In Clause 6(b) it was suggested the powers of issuing attachment orders and granting of interdicts should be removed from the Tribunal
Kwazulu Natal suggested that a further provision be inserted that dealt with an appeal in terms of section 17 of the principal Act, as an aggrieved party should be given the right to appeal on the merits or have a ruling amended. The reasoning was that since the ruling of the Tribunal was deemed to have the same effect as a judgment in the Magistrate’s Court, then it should be appealable.
Apart from this, the delegation was mandated to consider any additional amendments, provided that these did not alter the essential elements of the Bill.
Mr F Adams (ANC, Western Cape) said that municipalities received the orders to seize possessions from the courts.
Mr Van Rooyen agreed that the Tribunals should not have power equal to that of the courts as that would lead to all sorts of problems.
Mr Mzizi stated that people should follow the correct procedures of the law.
Mr Jeebodt argued that the power of the Tribunal to evict should taken out of the Bill. Magistrates or High courts only, in his opinion, should grant evictions. The process of courts should follow, as the Tribunal had no recourse for the opportunity to appeal.
Mr A Rossouw, Manager: Western Cape Housing Tribunal, said that “teeth” should be granted to the Tribunal.
Mr Watson expressed the view that the Bill be left as presently worded. It should not be made too difficult for landlords.
Mr Adams believed that recourse was built into the Bill already.
Mr Jeebodt maintained that the poor did not have access to the mechanisms of the law. They, and other tenants, were squeezed all the time, and therefore the method of seizure must lie with the courts only to avoid abuse. He also believed that no landlord should be allow to claim more than one month’s deposit to ensure that the landlords did not abuse tenants.
Mr Watson (felt that that would be an imposition on the free market or private enterprise.
Mr Van Rooyen agreed with Mr Jeebodt.
Mr G Krumbock (DA, Kwazulu-Natal) wanted to know how far matters would go. The government wanted to erase the housing backlog, however, the amendment has made this difficult. Nobody would want to get into the housing business because the landlords, who were after all business people, would be liable if the tenants were not paying. Every private enterprise could not be regulated.
Mr Van Rooyen voiced that other market forces dictated as to why people did not wish to build flats, and interest rates could be one possible reason. If the Bill were to be open ended it would create exclusiveness.
Mr Watson believed that the market should be allowed to regulate itself.
Mr Krumbock gathered that the Committee was arguing for socialism. He believed the market should charge what could hold, as people had a choice as to what they could afford. He said that parliament should not be regulating people’s lives to that extent and people should take responsibility.
Mr Mzizi said that there were broad implications within the Bill.
Mr Rossouw advised that clause 6 (b) should not be taken out.
Mr Watson said that members of the public in Mpumalanga unanimously accepted all the amendments and the objectives of the Bill. In the absence of contrary views, the Bill was endorsed.
The Northern Cape had held public hearings. It proposed that the Bill should provide a mechanism to assist prospective tenants and to allow the lessee to be able to refer disputes to the Housing Tribunal. It noted that the Bill was silent on the Tribunals’ authority in respect of an automatic rent interdict, in terms of Section 31(1) of the Magistrate’s Court Act. The drafters might want to consider including a reference to this in Clause 5(c).
The procedure of issuing spoliation and attachment orders and granting interdicts should be followed as set out in the Magistrates’ Court Act, and it was suggested that reference of this also should be included in clause 5(c).
The question was posed whether the reference to attachment orders included emolument attachment orders, as this should be indicated more clearly in the Bill.
Apart from these comments, the Portfolio Committee on Housing and Local Government in the Northern Cape supported the Bill.
Mr Adams suggested that Clause 2 line 18 should omit “one or more” and “any” should be inserted.
The comma after the word “grounds” in line 18 of Clause 2 should be omitted.
In Clause 3 line 13 the phrase “and on application by a landlord,” should be omitted.
The Chairperson noted that a number of comments made today required further consideration. He suggested that each province must consult with their legal advisors before indicating their final mandates.
The meeting was adjourned.