Question posted in the Property Law category relating to Gauteng
I have recently moved out of the property that I was renting. My agreed lease period was 12 months and somehow the lease agreement was 15 months and I signed it in error. It was supposed to end in June of 2023 and the lease agreement said it ends in the 30th of September with I didn't notice when I signed the lease.
So I moved out in May and I notified the landlord which she was furious about it and she asked me to leave the premises asap and leave the keys. This was in the first week of June.
With my calculations, my landlord would have kept my deposit and I'd have to pay for the utilities at least for that month. The landlord has now come back asking for a 4 months rent plus utilities and she's threatening me with court appearances.
Do I have to pay that 4 months rent, what do I do?
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In my opinion, and based on what you've explained, it sounds like there is a common mistake in relation to the period of the lease. If you thought that it was a 12 month lease, but the document said 15 months, then this is a mistake which can be rectified in court. So I do not think that your landlord has a very strong case at all.
In addition to that, the Consumer Protection Act enables a tenant to cancel a lease agreement (at any point) by giving 20 business days' notice, which is the same as a month.
So, if you gave your landlord notice of cancellation, then moved out 20 business days (4 weeks) later, then that is the end of the lease agreement.
The landlord however is entitled to receive a "reasonable cancellation penalty" from you, because of the early termination, but in residential leases this is normally 1 months rental.
So, if the landlord kept your deposit, then that would go towards the reasonable cancellation penalty of 1 months rental. This should square you away with the landlord.
In my view, the landlord doesn't have a hope of claiming 4 months rental from you. If the landlord was able to argue that 1.5 months rental was "more reasonable" because of something, something, something, then I would understand that. But 4 months rental is completely over the top.
Any lawyer will tell your landlord the same thing and I highly doubt that you will see any legal proceedings, etc from your landlord, especially since any lawyer would probably ask your landlord for a R10,000 deposit to start a court case.
My advice, tell the landlord that you forfeited your deposit to him and 4 months rental as a claim is over the top, and he will never ever get a court to order that.