Written for YourProperty

The Property Poser panel has been approached for assistance by a reader who has been experiencing an abundance of problems since taking occupation of her rented granny flat 10 months ago.

It would appear that the electrics in the flat are not properly wired, creating the potential for someone to be shocked. The reader also reports that the flat draws a lot of electricity, even when most of the appliances, including the geyser, are switched off.

Similarly, the water meter runs despite the reader not using any water. Other problems include a burst pipe in the kitchen and poor security, resulting in her vehicle being broken into on six occasions thus far.

The reader feels that the problems she has suffered more than justify her wanting and being entitled to leave.

Despite complaining to the landlord, nothing has been repaired and towards the end of last year he advised her that she could leave if she wanted to, provided she could find alternative accommodation.

The tenants in the main dwelling were told the same thing, as the landlord’s son apparently intended to take occupation of the entire property.

Taking him at his word, the reader sourced a new place to stay and gave the landlord a week’s notice.

The landlord refused to release her, stating that she had misunderstood him and that she was still obliged to give one month’s notice or forfeit her deposit, which would presumably be set off against payment for the notice month’s rental.

Without seeing the written lease that was concluded between the landlord and tenant, it is difficult to advise on a specific remedy, says Stiaan Jonker of Smith Tabata Attorneys in Port Elizabeth.

“Disregarding, for the time being, the reader’s complaints about the condition of the property, and focusing on the aspect relating to cancellation of the lease, I’m not convinced that the problems experienced result in her being able to leave on a whim.”

The reader advised the landlord of the problems with the rented flat yet, despite nothing being done, she continued to stay there for ten months, says Jonker.

“The lease agreement would provide us with some insight into this matter and would typically state the rental period or provide for termination on, usually, a month’s notice.”

Should there be no written lease, Jonker says the period is usually determined on a month-to-month basis with one calendar month’s notice.

Of course, the parties can agree to different terms and whether such an agreement occurred is the crux of the current matter, says Susan Chapman from Rawson Properties PE Platinum.

“Because the reader gave a week’s notice, it still seems to have been a requirement in her mind. However, the period thereof appears to be in dispute.”

Chapman says the reader did not advise the panel of any special agreement in this regard, therefore it would seem that the usual one-month notice period would apply.

“However, the lease period itself, which is typically agreed to at the outset and recorded in the agreement, would be abbreviated.”

The early termination and notice period would have to be agreed upon by both parties, says Chapman.

“Notice should be reasonable in the circumstances and one month would allow the landlord to make alternative arrangements.”

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