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Wednesday Oct 23, 2013

Housing tribunals 'function unlawfully'

Court rules regulate the conduct of the proceedings of the courts, as for example, in the case of a tenant or landlord seeking to take a ruling or judgment on appeal.

Where a party intends to appeal against the judgment of a court or to take on review an alleged irregularity, the party is entitled to a copy of the transcript, upon payment of the prescribed fees.

This is usually paid to an outsourced commercial company, such as Sneller Recordings. The transcript of the mechanical or digital recording of the proceedings must be certified as correct.

Rental Housing Tribunals do not have regulations as required by the Rental Housing Act 50 of 1999 as amended.

According to section 15 (1) amended in 2008, the minister of human settlements must make regulations relating to, among other things, unfair practices, procedures and the manner in which the proceedings of the tribunal must be conducted, and the forms and certificates to be used.

Five years on and three ministers later since the amendments, the ministry has overlooked or ignored the need for regulations, especially when no provision was made for provincial regulations to apply in the interim.

A pensioner, Marie Velthuysen of Kingsburgh, asked for a transcript from the KZN Rental Housing Tribunal of its proceedings on August 22.

A senior tribunal manager informed Velthuysen in writing that the cost of obtaining one copy of a transcript of her case ranged from R1 050 to R1 950 as per the quotation received.

The actual cost she paid for the transcript last week was R1 050 for 22 pages.

The entity that transcribed the recording of the tribunal hearing failed to include a certificate affirming that the transcript was a correct reflection of the digital recording.

It would also appear from the transcript that English was not the transcriber's first language.

How did the tribunal decide that a party must pay, since there is no regulation directing a party to the prescribed fee?

What rationale or what prescribed rule entitles the tribunal to procure a copy of the transcript from a party by seeking the pensioner to pay the tribunal's cost?

When the pensioner was given a bill of R1 050 for two bound copies of the transcript, she enquired of the Tribunal official why she should pay for the copy.

The cost was immediately reduced to R525.

She was told that the tribunal, by law, was eligible for a copy in the event that a party requested a transcript of its proceedings.

No such law could be found. However, should the tenant bring a high court review, a copy of the transcript would form part of her application that would be served on the tribunal as one of the respondents.

According to Sneller Recordings, the recording and transcribing company that does the court transcriptions, a party requesting a transcript receives it within seven working days (for example, 100 pages) at a cost of R23.30 a page, and a second copy at R1.66 a page.

A certificate of correctness is attached to the bound transcript by the typist/transcriber.

Velthuysen would have paid R512.60 and R36.52 for a second copy (which she did not request) of the tribunal's recording if Sneller Recordings services were procured.

Tribunals as quasi-judicial or administrative bodies cannot arbitrarily create rules, regulations and directives. These come into operation through certain legal processes.

In the instance of the provincial Rental Housing Tribunals, the minister of human settlements must make regulations. In the absence of regulations, tribunals act with impunity, even though they do not have discretionary powers and are creations of statutes.

In addition, tribunals function without the necessary powers.

Until decisive action is taken, tribunals will function 'unlawfully', violating the rights of parties and undermining justice and our constitutional values.

Tenant Issues
Sayed Iqbal Mohamed
Chairman of the Organisation of Civic Rights
Daily News

For tenant's rights' advice, contact Loshni Naidoo or Pretty Gumede at 031 304 6451.


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