Answer to a question from a reader

My landlord exploited and over-charged us because we only had a verbal lease agreement, and eventually evicted us. Can he get away with that?

The short answer

You can lay a complaint against him at the rental housing tribunal and also against the estate agent who tried to evict you illegally.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

I have a verbal lease agreement for the house I am staying in, which will expire at the end of December 2023. There are no receipts of payment because our landlord wanted cash (I did take photos of him counting the money every month though). Over time, there were some problems with the house that caused tension between us and him. Our landlord had also said the monthly charges for water were R5,000 but we discovered that this amount covered the water usage for his house as well as ours.

The other day we got a call from a real estate agent saying that they need to come take pictures because the house is being sold - we were not informed of this at all. She said that the landlord had told her we were illegal occupiers. Next thing we know, we receive a letter from the agent telling us we need to be out of the house by 10 September. 

Should I lay a complaint against the landlord or the agent?

The long answer

The estate agent also had no right to tell you to vacate the house when you had a legally binding verbal contract to stay until the end of December.

The fact that your landlord was charging you for his own water usage, as well as yours, is completely illegal, not to mention dishonest.

I would not waste any more time trying to speak to the landlord. I would advise that you lay a complaint against him at the rental housing tribunal and also against the estate agent who tried to evict you illegally. Even if you are going to move to new premises, it’s important not to put up with that kind of behaviour. And it may well help them to understand that they can’t play fast and loose with people’s legal rights when it comes to the next tenants.

The complaints that the Western Cape Rental Housing Tribunal (RHT) deals with include the following:

  • Failure to adequately maintain the rental property.

  • Unlawful repossession of property and unlawful evictions.

  • Failure to accept notice and to vacate the premises.

  • Unlawful notices to vacate.

  • Unilateral changes to lease agreements.

  • Failure to provide monthly statements or issue receipts.

  • Unlawful seizure of possessions.

  • Failure to provide municipal services.

(I have bolded the ones that may apply to you.)

Now it’s also possible to log a complaint online with the RHT. The instructions provided below are from Western Cape RHT.

5 steps to lodge your complaint online: 

  1. Register on the WCG eService Portal

  1. Log into your registered account

  • Using your newly created account, log into the eService Portal.

  • If you have forgotten your password or username, you can reset this via the log-in screen by following the link and prompts.

  1. Select Rental Housing Tribunal matter

  • Navigate to the Rental Housing Tribunal by selecting “Query” or “Report”, followed by “Rental Housing Tribunal”.

  • Familiarize yourself with the disclaimer

  • Ensure that you have all the documentation to proceed with your application.

  1. Complete Online Complaint form

  • Complete your application form by providing all the required Information

  • You will be required to upload documents as included in the disclaimer section

  • Follow the screens and prompts to complete your complaint form

  1. Submit Complaint

  • Before submitting your complaint, review the details provided by selecting the ‘back’ button.

  • Accept the Declaration as a last step to your application and submit

  • On the ‘Interview Complete’ screen you can download all the documents relevant to your complain

They also suggest using the Rental Housing Tribunal App, which you can download from your phone's app store

If you need to contact the RHT, here are their contact details:

Rental Housing Tribunal Contact Information:

Contact details for enquiries
Contact Centre: 0860 106 166
Please Call Me: 079 769 1207
SMS: Help to 31022

For all general enquiries 

For dispute-related enquiries
Submit all complaint forms, annexures and a copy of your lease agreement to

Telephone: 021 483 5020 / 6495 / 3283

Department of Human Settlements:

Ground Floor
ISM Building
27 Wale Street
Cape Town

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Oct. 2, 2023, 10:45 a.m.

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Please note. We are not lawyers or financial advisors. We do our best to make the answers accurate, but we cannot accept any legal liability if there are errors.