Renters guide: Terminating a lease agreement

Renters guide: Terminating a lease agreement

Private Property South Africa
Private Property Reporter

How to terminate a lease agreement and mitigate any potential difficulties.

What notice period should I give?

Should a tenant need to terminate the lease, under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), they are able to give landlords 20 days’ notice if they want to cancel their lease before it expires.

Do I need to pay anything extra?

If your landlord has met all the conditions of the lease and you decide to cancel your lease early, you will be in breach of contract unless the termination of the lease has been mutually agreed upon, or there’s a cancellation clause in your lease agreement. This means that your landlord is within his rights to demand that you still pay the rent due for the balance of your lease period and you may also lose your deposit.

The landlord is also within his right to recoup any reasonable costs that he might incur whilst searching for a replacement tenant – i.e.: loss of rental income, commissions paid to letting agents, as well as the cost of advertising the property.

Can a landlord withhold my deposit?

It is illegal for a landlord to withhold the entire deposit amount (unless there were substantial damages to the property), even if a new tenant has not yet been found. Damages to the property are to be billed separately from the cancellation expenses.

Be sure to get any agreement that you have made with your landlord in writing, to prevent any misunderstandings down the line.

What happens if my landlord sells the property?

Should a landlord want to sell the property, the ’huur gaat voor koop’ rule applies, which roughly says ”rental goes ahead of purchase”, meaning that while the owner has every right to sell his property, the lease takes precedence. So the buyer is bound to the terms of the lease agreement, and has to keep the tenant until the termination date of the lease. This protects the tenant’s rights while the lease is in place.

When the owner sells the property to a third party, he may not terminate the lease agreement. He can however, give the tenant first option to purchase the property.

The tenant must allow the owner to put up “for sale” signs and allow prospective buyers to view the property at a time convenient for all parties.

Now that you have your ducks in a row...
you have signed for your perfect new rental...
taken care of the deposit...
you understand the rights and obligations of all parties...
and you know about terminating a lease...

The next step in your Renting 101 Guide is to 'Live Well'!

Have a look at the rest of the Quick Guides in our series for 'Property 1st-Timers':

  1. Renting guide: A guide for tenants
  2. Buyers guide: Buying your 1st home a pro
  3. Buy-to-let guide
  4. Property flipping guide
  5. Property developer guide
  6. Student letting guide
  7. Sellers guide: A guide to selling your property successfully

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Lease Agreements


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