How To End Your Lease Agreement With Dignity

As we head towards the end of the year, we move our attention to a topic most South Africans have had to deal with at some point in their lives. Lease agreements. Like any relationship, tenants and landlords may start off thinking the world of each other, but something as simple as a noise complaint or late payment can bring the moonshine and roses to an end. 

When either party breaches the lease contract it means that they have failed to perform any term of the contract without a legitimate legal excuse. For example, the landlord decides to sell the property before the lease expiry date. Or a tenant vacates the property without notice or payment. There are countless reasons why tenants or landlords may decide to end the lease agreement. While the reasons may differ, the course of action that follows should be dealt with sensitively to avoid lengthy legal procedures and costs. How to cancel a lease agreement:

  • Check the notice period. This should be outlined in your lease agreement.
  • Deliver the written notice and discuss why you need to cancel the agreement. If both parties are in agreement ensure that the notice is signed. Clearly indicate the date the property needs to be vacated by.
  • Do a property inspection together and distinguish between wear and tear and actual damages.
  • The deposit should then be returned to the tenant, minus the cost of damages agreed to. Proof of the repair costs is also recommended.
  • All keys should be returned to the landlord.

In an ideal world every lease agreement would be canceled with both parties happy. Unfortunately, this is very rarely the case. In which case both parties should be aware of their rights. What steps to take when either party breaches the lease and the situation cannot be reconciled? Start by reading through and understanding the agreement both parties signed, with specific focus on the cancelation clause. Lease agreements come in all shapes and sizes and may vary, but the contract underlines your rights and will help you choose the right course of action. What a tenant can and cannot do:

  • A tenant may give a month’s notice or 20 business days. Should 20 business days’ notice be given the tenant may be liable for cancellation fees.
  • A tenant may continue living in the property until the lease expires as long as he/she has not breached the lease agreement. This includes change of ownership.
  • The tenant may not use the property for any other purpose than what is stipulated in the lease agreement. For example, run a business without consent from the landlord.
  • The tenant may not make changes to the property unless agreed with the landlord.
  • The tenant may not sublet the property without permission from the landlord. For example, renting out an additional bedroom to a third party.

What a landlord can and cannot do:

  • A landlord may decide to evict a tenant, but can only do so if the correct eviction process has been followed and a court order is obtained.
  • A landlord in possession of an eviction order cannot remove tenants from a property. The court sheriff is responsible for doing this.
  • The landlord cannot refuse the tenant access to the property by changing the locks, for example.
  • The landlord may not enter the premises without permission and remove furniture as a form of payment.

Whether you’re beginning, renewing or ending a lease agreement come December or January, we hope you feel more equipped to handle the process.