How To End Lease Agreements With Dignity

End lease - Man signing the end of his lease agreement

End lease agreements between two parties can be complicated. 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. How to end 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 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 end lease agreements.

  • 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.

Need further help to end your lease?

Simon Dippenaar has a BBusSc LLB degree and Professional Diploma in Legal Practice from the University of Cape Town, and is an admitted attorney of the High Court of South Africa. He is the founder and director of private legal practice, Simon Dippenaar & Associates, with offices in Cape Town and Gauteng representing South African and international clients.

Simon’s dedication, diplomacy and compassionate approach extend from Family Law to each of his fields of expertise and have earned him a reputation for cracking cases where his competitors have failed. His associates are appointed for their skills specific to their areas of practice.

Simon is committed to serving his community and the less fortunate, increasing access to justice by making legal expertise available to deserving cases. He is on record in one of South Africa’s biggest mass eviction cases in Marikana, representing, pro bono, the unlawful occupiers and their constitutional right to adequate housing.

Learn more about Simon Dippenaar


The information on this website is provided to assist the reader with a general understanding of the law. While we believe the information to be factually accurate, and have taken care in our preparation of these pages, these articles cannot and do not take individual circumstances into account and are not a substitute for personal legal advice. If you have a legal matter that concerns you, please consult a qualified attorney. Simon Dippenaar & Associates takes no responsibility for any action you may take as a result of reading the information contained herein (or the consequences thereof), in the absence of professional legal advice.