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In Delaware, there are certain rules and regulations that landlords and tenants have to follow to promote a healthy leasing relationship. Some of these rules and regulations are established by the Delaware landlord, according to their needs. However, these terms are also regulated by Delaware state landlord tenant laws, meaning that you should pay attention to them.

Managing a lease agreement involves more than collecting rent payments on time. There are many other terms that both parties have to agree upon before they decide to rent a property. These terms are found in the Delaware landlord-tenant code.

It's crucial to note that not all agreements in Delaware work the same way; they mostly depend on the landlord and their conditions for inhabiting their rental property. However, it's good to identify the rights that the landlord and tenant have to prevent legal disputes in the future.

In this article, you're going to learn more about the Delaware landlord-tenant law, which involves the current state of the housing market in the area, rights and responsibilities for every party involved, and other miscellaneous information that can help you in the future.

Keep in mind that if you need specific help with your rental agreements, you should contact a lawyer for legal advice.

Is Delaware Considered a Landlord-Friendly State?

Considering the regulations published in the Delaware landlord-tenant law, Delaware is not considered a landlord-friendly state. The main reason for this is that tenants have a high grade of leverage over their landlords, which can affect the way in which they manage the rental agreement. On the other hand, the landlord-tenant code doesn't prohibit rent control policies, meaning that each municipality may impose unique rent limitations for the landlord.

Rental Agreements

The landlord-tenant laws in this state can be found in the Del. Code (Title 25), published by the Attorney General's Office. If you want a deeper insight into how that code works, make sure to read it thoroughly. In Delaware, every lease agreement should be written if the lease term is one year or longer. Otherwise, the lease may be oral. However, it's always recommended to go with the written form since it can help both parties in cases of a legal dispute over rent, eviction, or damages.

Overall, here's what a rental agreement should always include, according to the Del. landlord-tenant laws:

  • Description of the leased premises.
  • Information about the tenant and landlord.
  • Payment of rent conditions.
  • Lease violation clauses.
  • Security deposit clauses.
  • Person responsible for repairs and utility bills.

Tenant Screening Process

Landlords have the right to run a background check on a prospective tenant (assuming they have written permission). In these cases, the Del. Code states the following rules:

  • The state of Delaware regulates the amount of application fee that a landlord can charge their tenant.
  • Application fees are non-refundable.
  • The fee may not be greater than 10% of one month s rent, according to the Del. landlord-tenant laws.

What Are Landlords' Rights & Responsibilities?

According to the Del. Code, there are several regulations that both parties need to keep in mind at the time of signing a new lease agreement. However, these terms also come with a set of rights for both the tenant and the landlord. It's important to remember all these rights since they can help either party in case of a legal dispute.

Rights

According to the Del. Residential Landlord-Tenant laws, every landlord has the legal right to request rent payments on time, collect security deposits to cover damages that exceed normal wear and tear, and pursue a proper eviction claim if the tenant is seen violating any of the terms of the lease.

Responsibilities

Every landlord is responsible for providing their tenant with a habitable rental unit that complies with local housing and safety codes. The tenant may request repairs to the property, and the landlord has an obligation to make them promptly (usually within 12 days' notice). If the landlord fails to provide these repairs within these 12 days' notice, the tenant may have the right to take one of two forms of alternative action.

Finally, the landlord must provide the tenant with the following utilities, according to the Del. Code:

  • Electrical, plumbing, and sanitation.
  • Running water.
  • HVAC system.
  • Trash cans.

What Are Tenants' Rights & Responsibilities?

Rights

Every Delaware tenant has the right to seek a habitable rental unit that complies with local housing codes, as well as seeking housing without any kind of discrimination from their landlord.

If there are any repairs needed for the property, the landlord is entitled to receive written notice from their tenant so that they can get the repairs done. In the case that the tenant fails to provide that notice within a reasonable period of time, they might not be legally allowed to seek alternative action.

Responsibilities

According to the Del. Code, every tenant is responsible for maintaining the unit in good condition; this includes checking the electrical, plumbing, and sanitation appliances to verify that they're working properly. Aside from that, every Delaware tenant is responsible for the following things in a rental property:

  • Pay rent on time.
  • Keep every fixture clean.
  • Do small maintenance jobs.
  • Not disturb other neighbors or tenants.
  • Follow all the clauses stated in the agreement and Del. Code.

Rental Agreement General Clauses

Now that you know the foundation of every lease, it's time that you learn how to identify the general guidelines of each agreement. If either the landlord or tenant fails to comply with these housing rules and laws, they may be exposed to legal action from the other party.

Rent Payments

Unless stated otherwise, the landlord may request rent payments at the beginning of each month. According to the Del. Code, there are no current rent control policies, meaning that the landlord may charge any amount of rent they consider appropriate for their property.

Another important thing to note is that the landlord must send the tenant at least 60 days' notice to the tenant if they're planning to increase rent. In those cases, the tenant has 15 days to respond. In the case that the tenant doesn't respond within these 15 days or refuses the increase, they must leave the property after at least 60 days.

Landlords can charge late fees to their tenant if they wish. However, these late fees cannot exceed 5% of the cost of rent. Additionally, these fees may only be charged to the tenant after a five-day grace period has passed.

Security Deposit

A security deposit is mainly collected by the landlord as a protective measure against damages to the property, unpaid rent, or unpaid utilities. The value of the security deposit cannot be higher than the cost of one month' s rent. Keep in mind that landlords could charge a pet deposit to their tenants if they plan to take a pet with them.

On the other hand, the landlord must return the security deposit within 20 days of the tenant leaving the property to comply with the Del. Code and local housing laws. In the case that the landlord fails to return the deposit in these 20 days, they may be liable to pay double the amount wrongfully withheld.

Keep in mind that landlords may withhold the security deposit partially to cover unforeseen expenses, such as unpaid rent or damages. In these cases, landlords must give the tenant an itemized list of deductions.

Lease Termination

Tenants can terminate the lease for any reason they consider appropriate. However, they must provide a particular notice to comply with the Del. Code and local housing laws.

  • Week-to-Week - Non-applicable.
  • Month-to-Month - 60 days of notice.
  • Quarter-to-Quarter - Non-applicable.
  • Year-to-Year - Non-applicable.

However, tenants can choose to terminate the lease before it ends if certain conditions are met; this is called "Early termination." If one of the following conditions apply, you may terminate the lease:

  • Active military duty.
  • Early termination clause.
  • Lease violation.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Landlord harassment.

Evictions

Landlords in Delaware can evict their tenant from the rental property if the following conditions are met:

  • Nonpayment of Rent: If the tenant fails to pay rent on time, the landlord must give the tenant a five-day notice to pay or quit. In the case that the tenant doesn't pay the rent, landlords can start an eviction claim.
  • Breach of the Lease: Landlords must send a seven days' notice to cure or quit. After these seven days, the landlord can start the eviction process immediately.
  • Criminal Activity: The landlord can start an immediate eviction.

At-will tenants with a month-to-month lease should receive at least 60 days' written notice before getting evicted.

See our full guide on the eviction process and laws for Delaware.

eviction process and laws for Delaware

Conclusion

Make sure to follow each of the guidelines stated in the Del. Code and landlord-tenant laws if you want to avoid having legal disputes in the future. Doing this also promotes healthy leasing relationships throughout the entire term. If you want more information for your case, make sure to contact an attorney.

FAQs

Does the landlord have to disclose information about lead paint?

To comply with state laws and the Del. Code, every tenant must request information regarding lead paint concentrations if the unit was built before 1978. Read more about lead paint concentrations.

What is the limit for a case in the small claims courts in Delaware?

Tenants can take rental cases valued up to $15,000 to a Justice of the Peace court.

Does the landlord have the right to enter the property in Delaware?

According to state laws, the landlord must provide their tenants at least 48 hours of notice before entering their unit. However, according to the Del Code, this 48 hours' notice can be adjusted between the tenants and landlords.

How are tenants protected against discrimination and domestic violence?

The Fair Housing Act and Del. Code protect every tenant from getting discriminated against or evicted based on their race, color, sex, religion, familial status, or others. On the other hand, these laws also protect tenants from any domestic violence or harassment from their landlord.

Resources

  1. Delaware Code
David Bitton

David is the co-founder & CMO of DoorLoop, a best-selling author, legal CLE speaker, and real estate investor. When he's not hanging with his two children, he's writing articles here!