Can I terminate my lease agreement before the end of a lease period?

Most South Africans have, at some point in their lives been tenants. As a  tenant, a lot of reasons may arise why you would want to have a lease agreement terminated   before prescription of the lease period. The question that would then arise is whether such termination may result in breach of contract.

The answer to this question will most likely depend on whether the said lease agreement contains a cancellation clause .Most cancellation clauses are likely to set out the grounds for termination of the agreement .Unless there are no grounds for cancellation stipulated in the cancellation clause it may be difficult to get out of a lease agreement without any recourse. Even if the lease agreement doesn’t contain a cancellation clause, the tenant can still be considered to be in breach of the agreement if they decide to terminate the contract prematurely. If the tenant has breached the contract, the landlord is within their rights to demand that the tenant pays the rental amount due to them for the remainder of the agreed upon tenancy period.



When can an agreement be terminated?

by mutual consent

Assuming that the landlord has met all the conditions in the agreement, the tenant and the landlord may mutually agree on the termination of the lease .The landlord may require that the tenant arrange for another tenant to take over the lease agreement or sublet the property for the remainder of the lease period.

In the event that the landlord has not met or fulfilled all his responsibilities such as failing to reasonably maintain the property in terms of the lease agreement, the tenant may be able to cancel the lease agreement early without the tenant being in breach of the agreement and will be absolved from paying penalties .The onus is on the tenant to prove that the landlord has failed to meet his contractual responsibilities and is thus in breach of contract.

Notice period

In terms of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) a tenant has to provide the landlord with 20 days’ notice if they choose to cancel their lease before the prescribed period. This does not absolve the tenant of all his responsibilities; the landlord may recover all reasonable costs until finding another tenant from the existing tenant’s deposit.

Things to be aware of about lease agreements:

  1. Reduce your lease agreement into writing to avoid any additional or modifications outside of the lease. With a written lease agreement it is easier to prove breach should same be alleged
  2. Lease agreements are subject to national legislation, this includes, inter alia, the Rental Housing Act.
  3. Be mindful of the Consumer Protection Act , this piece of legislation grants the consumer the right to cancel a lease upon notice
  4. There is a cooling off period (5 day cooling off period) applicable to allow the consumer to cancel the agreement on becoming aware of any penalties if the agreement was a result of direct marketing.

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