By Sanette Viljoen
Question: I recently read my lease and was surprised by the number of times it refers to days. It was also not clear to me whether they mean calendar days or workdays, or even when these days start. Is there a standard rule for how it works?
Answer: Most contracts contain a list of definitions or an interpretation clause that explains to the parties exactly how days, weeks or months should be calculated and also when these periods begin to run, up to the target date.
The first step would therefore be to read your contract’s definitions. If your contract does not contain definitions or an interpretation clause, our law provides for it by means of guidelines for interpretation.
These guidelines stipulate that the concurrent intention of the parties based on the wording should first be consulted. If the true intention of the parties cannot be ascertained, the “civil method” of time calculation is used.
The civil method for the interpretation of days works as follows: The day on which the period begins to run, is included and the last day is excluded unless there are special circumstances that justify a deviation from this rule.
It is very important to consider the wording of the definition of a time period. Is the prescribed action required before or after the time period, or can it be any time after the period? For example: Should a lease stipulate that notice of extension be given during the last month of the lease period, this notice can be given at any time during the last month and not necessarily on the first or last day of the month.