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Ask a lawyer – Who’s liable if a lease is cancelled prematurely?


Family of mine signed a contract for a house they were supposed to be renting. On the contract it is stipulated rent and deposit must be paid on 31 May 2016 and move in on the 1st of June. They moved in about two weeks before with the owner’s consent. The contract was not revised with the new move-in date and no money was paid etc. The signed contract was also not dated. About three days ago the man lost his job and to date there has been no word on when and if they will be paid a salary. They informed the owner that they must move and would be out by end May. Rent would be paid for the time they stayed. The owner insisted on rent for June and they must hand in the key on 29 May. If demands were not met they would institute legal action. My question is what legal leg does the owner have to stand on to force them to pay for June? Thank you for reading.

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Sonja du Toit, director at MC van der Berg Incorporated.

Sonja du Toit, director at MC van der Berg Incorporated.

The fact that the tenant moved in earlier or that the lease agreement is not dated is irrelevant, as the legal position currently is that an agreement can be entered into verbally or in writing. In terms of the Consumer Protection Act the tenant is entitled to a cancellation by giving 20 business days’ notice to the landlord. The notice should be also be in writing and both parties must have actual knowledge of the notice being given. In this regard the landlord will be legally entitled to June’s rent as this will be regarded as reasonable notice being given, and probably also be deemed as a reasonable penalty for the cancellation as set out in the Consumer Protection Act. The landlord may not demand the key before the end of the term notice is given for.

With regard to the two weeks that they moved in prior to the original move in date the landlord will be entitled to calculate the rent on a pro rata basis.


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 Words: Sonja du Toit, director at MC van der Berg Incorporated



David A Steynberg, managing editor and director of HomeTimes, has more than 10 years of experience as both a journalist and editor, having headed up Business Day’s HomeFront supplement, SAPOA’s range of four printed titles, digimags Asset in Africa and the South African Planning Institute’s official title, Planning Africa, as well as B2B titles, Building Africa and Water, Sewage & Effluent magazines. He began his career at Farmer’s Weekly magazine before moving on to People Magazine where he was awarded two Excellence Awards for Best Real Life feature as well as Writer of the Year runner-up. He is also a past fellow of the International Women’s Media Foundation.

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