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Wednesday Dec 12, 2012

Parties should stick to the letter of property leases

It is crucial that parties do not lose sight of the terms of their lease contract. Where the lease is for a fixed period, the last day is the date the tenant must hand over the property in the condition she received it.

The landlord does not have to issue a notice to vacate since "the notice" is contained in the agreement whereby the tenant agreed that the lease will end on a certain date.

A lease may include an escalation clause or sets out annual increases for the entire duration of the lease. The tenant is obliged to pay the increase at the anniversary date, without a notice of a rent increase.

Where a notice is required, be it for a rent increase or for the cancellation of the lease, such a notice must be given within the time allocated by law.

A tenant can reject a notice that prematurely terminates a lease and challenge it legally.

The tenant, for example, may contend that a proper notice period of a calendar month was not given in terms of the agreement.

Should the matter end up in court, the tenant would succeed.

What happens to a landlord who is informed on the last day of the month by his tenant that he is moving out on that day?

The "notice" is most certainly unjust with serious financial implications for the landlord.

How does he get a new tenant to take occupation the following day, assuming that the dwelling is in a good condition and he is able to repaint it?

If a security deposit was paid, rentals paid and the dwelling returned in the condition in was let, the landlord may have a chance of recouping his

e-mail tantly accepts. She is told that this would be a temporary arrangement and should the first dwelling not be available, she would be given an alternate one for one month.

At the end of the month, the tenant must move out. Again, the tenant reluctantly accepts, but is furious about the relocation and uncertainty.

The tenant agreed to occupy the third dwelling for one month, but this was out of anger and desperation; neither would assist her legally should she fail to vacate.

The tenant when reminded that she failed to move out as agreed cannot rely on the landlady's breach in the first instant.

The tenant had the option to sue for breach or accept the alternate dwelling.

She accepted the upmarket dwelling at a reduced rental and later relocated to another, agreeing to one month's occupation.

Morally, the landlady would have acted dishonestly and wrongly at the outset, having full knowledge that the first dwelling would not be available.

Legally, the tenant is unlikely to succeed in her claim for damages for breach. In fact, legally, it may be argued, the landlady discharged her obligations even though she failed to honour the first agreement.

The tenant's acceptance and relocation relieved her of the material breach.

Tenant Issues
Sayed Iqbal Mohamed
Chairperson, Organisation of Civic Rights.
Daily News

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