A sneaky tactic that some landlords like to use when trying to evict a tenant is by trying to make their lives as miserable as possible, and the easiest way to do that is by cutting the tenant’s electricity. But is this a legal practice?
According to the Rental Housing Tribunal (RHT) Act, 50 of 1999 Unfair Practices Regulations, landlords may not purposely cut the supply of electricity unless they have a valid court order.
That said, there are some other scenarios where landlords may cut your electricity. Make sure you keep reading to find out what they are.
Scenarios Where Landlords May Cut Electricity
Before I dive into the different scenarios I want to be clear, cutting a tenant’s access to services such as water and electricity because of a missed payment or because a landlord is trying to evict a tenant is illegal. That said, a tenant may take legal action if they want to.
The Rental Housing Tribunal act of 1999 here are some of the only legal reasons where landlords may cut electricity in a tenants residence.
If there’s something that needs to be fixed in the residence then your landlord may cut the electricity for a brief period.
That said, according to the Rental Housing Tribunal Act of 1999, Chapter 3 section 4.(2) the landlord needs to give you a decent amount of notice before entering the property. On top of that, the landlord will need to let you know when and for how long the electricity will be off.
If a landlord just comes onto the property without giving you a reasonable amount of notice, it’s considered trespassing and you could take legal action. If your landlord keeps trespassing then make sure you read this article on landlords entering residence unlawfully. The article will cover some legal options you have at your disposal.
The landlord does have the right to cut your electricity during emergence situations. An emergency situation could include an injury on the property, flooding, or even fires, etc.
If you’ve been evicted.
The law stipulates that you can’t take the law into your own hands, which simply means that if the landlord doesn’t want you in the residence, they can’t cut the supply of electricity before you’ve been evicted.
What To Do If You Suspect That Your Landlord Cut Your Electricity
If you only think that your landlord cut your electricity then you need to first be 100% sure before you can take legal action. Here’s how to check if your landlord is to blame step by step.
Ask your neighbors.
First and foremost, make sure the electricity didn’t go out in the area. The last thing you want to do is escalate something your landlord played no part in.
Contact your landlord.
If everyone else has electricity apart from you, then the next best thing to do is to ask your landlord if they had anything to do with the power outage.
If they admit it, then let them know they are breaking the rental housing tribunal act of 1999 and if they don’t switch it back on, you’ll take further legal action.
If they deny it, there’s a chance they’re not being truthful, to check, follow the next step.
Call your local municipality and ask them if they have been instructed to cut your electricity.
The municipality will be able to provide you with details on if your electricity is still running, or if someone instructed them to cut it.
Make sure you record whatever they tell you, this will give you the proof you need to report your landlord to the Rental Housing Tribunal.
If the municipality states that your electricity is still on, then it could be a maintenance issue. You’ll have to report this to your landlord so that they can fix the problem.
If the municipality states someone request for the electricity to be switched off, then follow then next step as soon as possible,
File a spoilation order if it’s urgent.
If your electricity has been cut then it probably will be urgent, so this is your best option. You will need a lawyer and you will need to go to a courtroom. But if your landlord won’t put your electricity back on then do this as soon as possible.
Report your landlord to the Rental Housing Tribunal.
If you’re sure that your landlord cut your electricity because they’re trying to evict you, because you missed a payment or for any other illegal reasons, then, by all means, report them to the Rental Housing Tribunal (RHT.)
The RTH is responsible for enforcing fair standards between tenants and landords, and they have the power to hand out fines and in some cases even prison sentences if their laws have been broken.
That said, the process can take some time, so make sure you file a spoliation order in the previous step before you continue here.
To report your landlord to the rental housing tribunal, you’ll need to find an RHT office near you. They have offices all over South Africa. Alternatively, you can find a number online by googling “Rental housing tribunal near me.”
Has a landlord ever purposely cut your water or electricity? Do you have any tips that you think should be on this article? Please let us know in the comments below so we can start learning from each other.