Q: Can I cancel my lease before the termination date?

My landlord refuses to perform any repairs to the property that I am living in. With the recent rains the roof has now sprung leaks and the house is virtually unliveable. Can I cancel my lease before the termination date?

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The short answer to this question is: probably. The landlord has an obligation to provide you with a residence that is reasonably habitable. But there are certain provisos:

  • What does the lease agreement say about maintenance? If it is silent on the issue, or if the landlord has taken on the responsibility, then the landlord needs to repair the damage.
  • Are there any extenuating circumstances that caused the damage to the roof? Eg. your kids have been playing on the roof, or the damage was caused by a supplier that you appointed, such as the TV installation guy? If you (or, by extension, your friends, family, guests, contractors or pets) were not in any way responsible for the damage or deterioration then the landlord would most likely be liable for the repairs;
  • Before cancelling, you need to first notify the landlord that the property needs maintenance. If the landlord doesn’t attend to the maintenance even after you’ve sent a written demand then you would have good grounds to cancel the lease and move out.

Alternatively, you could invoke the Consumer Protection Act and give 20 business days’ notice of cancellation of the lease. But in this instance you may become liable to pay a cancellation penalty. Whatever your decision, it is recommended that you consult an attorney who can read your rental contract and validate your decision.

Please note that this information is supplied for general information and does not constitute legal advice. It is advisable for you to contact a legal practitioner for guidance in respect of your unique requirements.