Answer to a question from a reader

What can I do to stop my former landlord giving bad references about me to agents?

The short answer

You can approach the Housing Tribunal and ask that your former landlord be stopped from giving bad references.

The whole question

I live in a separate entrance house in the suburb of Milnerton. I moved in on 1 March 2018. After moving I realised that the property had a lot of defects that i could not pick up when viewing. Most especially the roof leaked. I had a horrible winter. It leaked so much in the living room that I had to take my couches somewhere else. The window to the bedroom also allows water into the house and onto my bed when it rains.

I reported this to the landlord and she kept promising to fix it. But she did nothing.

Despite all this each and every month I paid my rent, on time and in full.

We had agreed that I was going to pay utilities every month but the landlady never sent any invoices for these. I therefore added an extra amount of R300 for utilities despite not receiving the invoices.

In January she asked if I wanted to renew the lease. When I asked if she would fix the roof and the leaking window she decided to terminate my contract. I'm not disputing her right to terminate my contract.

I had previously lodged a complaint with the Housing Tribunal because i did not want her to put any pressure on me to move out of the house because i have kids in school and I do not know if i can find alternative accommodation in the same area to ensure that my kids' schooling is not disrupted.

I have nothing to hide and therefore I did not hesitate to give their contact for reference to agents because i do not owe them any rent. But the landlady and her husband have been giving bad references to the agents that call them.

I would appreciate if you take a look into this matter and help me.

The long answer

Thank you for your email about your difficulties with your previous landlady.

You don’t say what became of the complaint you lodged previously with the Rental Housing Tribunal. I presume it was about the landlady not fixing the leaking roof and not sending you a copy of the utilities bill? The landlady is obliged by law to make necessary repairs to the house she rents out, and is also obliged to charge the exact amount stated in the utilities bill.

If your complaint was about these, you have written proof that you can show the agents that your landlady was at fault, and that that was why you had problems with her. You can also show the agents proof that you always paid your rent on time.

You are probably aware that the housing tribunal was set up to resolve disputes between tenants and landlords and that it can summon both tenants and landlords to a hearing. It has the same powers as a magistrate’s court. These are the types of disputes, complaints or problems that the housing tribunal can deal with:

  • Non-payment of rent

  • Failure to refund a deposit

  • Invasion of tenant’s privacy

  • Overcrowding

  • Determination of fair rent

  • Unlawful seizure of tenant’s goods

  • Discrimination by landlord against a prospective tenant

  • Receipt for payment not issued

  • Tenant behaving undesirably

  • Lack of repairs and maintenance

  • Unacceptable living conditions

  • Illegal evictions, illegal lockouts and illegal disconnection of services

You could approach the tribunal to complain about your previous landlords unfairly giving bad references to agents about you. You would need to bring the following documents with you:

  • ID if SA citizen, permit or passport if not South African.

  • Lease agreement

  • Proof of payment (receipt or bank deposit slips)

  • Physical address of landlord and tenant.

The contact number for the tribunal call centre is 0860 106 166. For dispute-related enquiries:
Tel: 021 483 5020 / 0645 / 2396


Answered on March 27, 2019, 11:03 a.m.

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