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Ask a lawyer – Can I cancel my lease?

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I need to relocate to another province due to work commitments, but I signed a lease agreement four months ago. I need to understand if I am entitled to cancel my lease agreement, and if so, how much notice do I need to give? Will there be any repercussions if I do cancel my lease early?

Thank you – Melinda


Hi Melinda, to determine the correct procedure which must be followed when cancelling a lease, you must first determine which legislation applies to the specific situation.

The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) expressly defines residential accommodation as a service, meaning that residential leases are affected by this Act. The CPA will apply to all leases, except where the tenant is a juristic entity and such a tenant has an annual turnover of more than R 2 million or where the landlord is not leasing the property in the ordinary course of his business.

When an early cancellation clause is NOT CPA compliant

The cancellation of a lease agreement before the expiration of the lease period is commonly known as early termination. If the CPA is applicable you can always cancel a fixed term agreement by giving 20 business days’ written notice to your landlord. Such cancellation will be subject to a reasonable cancellation penalty.

If the CPA does not apply, and you and your landlord did not contemplate early termination in the lease agreement, the Rental Housing Act (RHA) does not create a way for either party to cancel the lease. In the case that the lease is not regulated by either the CPA or the RHA, you would then be able to cancel the lease by giving notice which coincides with rental payment intervals.

When it is unclear whether or not a tenant can cancel a lease prior to its termination, as it often is and again in this case, it is best to contact a property expert for an opinion on which procedure to follow.

Got a burning question? Email mariette@hometimes.co.za and we’ll be sure to assist you

Tiaan BergAnswered by Tiaan van der Berg, founding director of M.C. van der Berg Incorporated, a legal practice specialising in property law. He is also the co-director of Mcademy Training Institute.


Mariette Steynberg is a qualified economist with a post-graduate diploma in financial planning. She has enjoyed working on holistic financial plans for clients in various stages of life, as well as a development economist assessing the socioeconomic impacts of new developments. When she is not working, Mariette enjoys parenting her quirky, delightful toddler girl. Cloth diapering, Eskimo kisses and the importance of reading to your child are all causes close to her heart. Mariette is passionate about financial education and hopes to use the experience she has gained to share knowledge with HomeTimes’ readership. Her goal is to provide information that is implementable by everyone.

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