My tenant disappeared overnight - What now?

By Rowan Terry, Legal Counsel at TPN from MRI Software 

It happens more often than landlords and property practitioners think. Tenants that, overnight, abscond from their rental property and vanish without a trace! The critical question is: What does this mean for your lease agreement? And your future rental? Are you able to take your property back, or is an eviction still necessary?   


The act of a tenant absconding or vacating a rental property without providing any written notice is referred to as repudiation in our rental law 

Repudiation is the act of a party to the lease agreement expressing their intent to no longer being bound to the terms and conditions of the lease agreement.  

A repudiation of a lease agreement can occur by means of express communication or by the conduct of the particular party. This would be the act of leaving the property for good without providing proper notice, as the tenant is clearly showing their intention to no longer be bound to the terms of the lease agreement.  

The landlord can accept or reject the repudiation 

Now that you have determined that the tenant’s actions do constitute repudiation, what is next? Well, that is completely up to the innocent party, or in this case the landlord. 

The landlord can opt to reject the repudiation and enforce the performance of the tenant in terms of the lease agreement. The landlord can also decide to accept such repudiation.

Acceptance of the repudiation will terminate the agreement immediately and the tenant will be liable for the damages of the remaining period of the lease agreement, subject to being proven by a court of law.  

Accepting the repudiation is recommended to mitigate damage 

This is the suggested way forward rather than rejecting the repudiation as once the agreement is terminated, the landlord is able to mitigate their damages by placing a new paying tenant in the property - the landlord would be entitled to claim the damages suffered from the tenant who repudiated the lease agreement.  

This method mitigates the landlord’s damages by the landlord placing a new tenant as soon as possible, and also secures their damages claim.  

Requirements of accepting repudiation 

The acceptance of the repudiation must: 

  • be in writing (a written email will suffice); 
  • clearly state that the tenant has repudiated the lease agreement; 
  • state that such repudiation is accepted; and  
  • be delivered to all viable service methods set out in your lease agreement, i.e.: post, email or by hand (proof of delivery must be retained to prove service of such notice).  

How do you locate the tenant to deliver your repudiation notice 

However, now that the tenant has absconded your property, you might find yourself struggling to locate where the tenant has moved to in order to deliver your repudiation notice 

TPN offers a Trace Report which you are able to perform without prior consent to locate and trace the tenant to the latest possible address that they are residing in recorded on the TPN and TransUnion databases. 

To enforce your rights in terms of your lease agreement, click here to perform a TPN Individual Trace enquiry today!

Important Note: Performing an Individual Trace enquiry without the prior written consent of the tenant will not be a breach of the Protection of Personal Information Act (hereafter “POPIA”) as section 11 of POPIA states that prior written consent of the data subject is not necessary where the processing of their personal information is necessary to carry out actions for the conclusion or performance of a contract to which the data subject is a party or the processing is necessary for pursuing the legitimate interests of the responsible party. A landlord performing a trace enquiry in order to serve the relevant notice in terms of the lease agreement on a tenant will fall within this exemption.  


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