What to do if landlord doesn’t return security deposit South Africa

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If you find yourself in a situation where your landlord refuses to refund your deposit with interest, you have options for dispute resolution through the Rental Housing Tribunal or Small Claims Court:

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Rental Housing Tribunal:

  1. Contact the Tribunal: If you wish to file a complaint, reach out to the Rental Housing Tribunal. They will initiate the process by contacting your landlord to obtain her side of the story.
  2. Mediation and Hearing: If the landlady does not agree to refund your deposit with interest, the Tribunal may facilitate a mediation process, and if necessary, hold a hearing. During these proceedings, both parties can present their cases and provide evidence.
  3. Tribunal Order: The Tribunal will make a binding order, which is equivalent to obtaining a judgment from a court. This order stipulates the terms of the resolution, including the return of your deposit. If the landlady fails to comply with the order within the specified timeframe, the sheriff of the court can be dispatched to enforce the order and collect the owed funds.

Small Claims Court:

If you choose to go through the Small Claims Court to reclaim your deposit and interest, here are the steps to follow:

Step 1: Contact the Landlady:

  • Initially, attempt to contact your landlord to settle your claim amicably. You can do this in person, in writing, or via telephone.

Step 2: Write a Letter of Demand:

  • If direct communication does not yield a resolution, send a written demand to your landlady. This letter should clearly outline the facts supporting your claim and the specific amount you are seeking. Hand-deliver or send this demand by registered post to the landlady.
  • Allow her 14 days from the date of receiving your letter to settle your claim.

Step 3: Visit the Clerk of the Court:

  • After the 14-day period has elapsed and the landlady has not settled your claim, report to the clerk of the court. You should bring the following documents with you:
    • Proof of delivery of the written demand, such as a Post Office slip.
    • Any contracts, documents, or other evidence supporting your claim.
    • Full name, address (both home and business if available), and telephone number of the landlady.

Step 4: Summons Issuance:

  • The clerk of the court will assist you in drafting the summons. This document will formally notify the landlady of the legal proceedings. The clerk will issue the summons and provide it to you to deliver to the landlord personally or through the sheriff of the court.
  • The clerk will also inform you of the date and time when the case will be heard in court.

Step 5: The Hearing:

  • At the court hearing, you must appear in person.
  • Ensure you have all relevant documents supporting your claim.
  • Have proof that the summons was properly served on the landlady.
  • The court procedures are informal and straightforward:
    • Present your case concisely, stating the facts clearly.
    • Respond to any questions from the court commissioner.
    • Submit your documents and evidence in support of your claim.

Step 6: After Judgment:

  • If the judgment is given in your favor, the landlady must pay the money immediately and will receive a receipt.
  • If she is unable to pay, the court will investigate her financial position and determine a payment plan to settle the owed funds.

Utilizing these legal avenues, you can seek a resolution and reclaim your deposit and interest if your landlady refuses to return them as required by the Rental Housing Act.