As a landlord, when you need to evict a tenant in Delaware, you file what’s typically known as a Summary Possession. This process can vary slightly depending on the county where it takes place, but it generally follows the same basic eviction process.
It’s important to note that landlords in Delaware are not allowed to evict tenants arbitrarily or without following proper legal procedures. It means that a landlord must file for an eviction lawsuit and follow the Delaware eviction code to evict a tenant legally.
Because every eviction lawsuit is unique and can be influenced by the specific rental agreement or lease signed by the tenant and landlord, it’s crucial for landlords to maintain accurate and thorough records throughout the eviction process.
By doing so, they can help prevent potential errors or loopholes that tenants may be able to use to challenge the eviction in a Summary Possession.
Below is an overview of Delaware eviction laws and what laws apply while evicting a tenant.
On What Grounds Can a Tenant Be Evicted in Delaware?
The process of eviction in Delaware is governed by lease terms, and landlords are entitled to evict tenants for various reasons.
Before starting the eviction process, the landlord must provide the tenant with a notice that specifies the reason for eviction and suggests ways to resolve the issue. This notice can be either written or verbal and typically requires a period of 60 days or less before action can be taken.
The notice serves as evidence when filing a complaint and is an essential step in eviction. While it may seem like a negative situation, it’s essential to remember that both tenants and landlords have rights and responsibilities, and understanding these can help prevent eviction or resolve issues fairly and timely.
Below are some of the reasons that can lead to eviction of a tenant:
1. Tenants Can Be Evicted If They Fail to Pay Rent
There are specific rules and regulations in place for both landlords and tenants when it comes to renting property in Delaware. For instance, the rent is considered late if it is not paid on the day, it is due, but there may be a grace period available if it is stated in the lease agreement.
However, if a tenant fails to pay rent, this violates the Residential Landlord-Tenant Code in Delaware. In such cases, landlords are required to provide an official written eviction notice called a 5-Day Notice to Pay, which gives the tenant five days to pay rent or terminate their tenancy.
It’s interesting to note that if the rent is paid within the five-day notice period, then the eviction process does not continue. However, if the tenant is unable to pay the rent within this period, the landlord has the right to continue filing for the eviction process. (See General Provisions of Residential Landlord-Tenant Code of Delaware State).
2. Tenants Can Be Evicted If They Violate the Lease Agreement
A lease or rental agreement in Delaware is a legally binding agreement between both the tenant and the landlord for the entire length of the tenant’s stay. The specific terms of the lease may vary depending on the tenant, but they must be in compliance with both the Delaware eviction code and the Residential Landlord-Tenant Code.
If a tenant violates any of the terms outlined in the landlord-tenant code, the landlord must provide them with an official written notice known as a 7-Day Notice to Remedy. This notice gives the tenant a chance to address and rectify the issue within the given timeframe. If the tenant successfully resolves the issue in time, the eviction process will not proceed.
Some of the lease violations can be:
- Damaging the rental property
- Smoking at rental property when not allowed
- Keeping pets when not allowed
If a tenant is in violation of their rental agreement, and these violations are not resolved, the landlord has the right to initiate the eviction process.
If a tenant repeats the same violation, the landlord can immediately terminate the tenancy without going through the eviction process.
The landlord may take this action by issuing a 7-Day Unconditional Quit Notice, which requires the tenant to vacate the rental premises within the specified time frame. (See General Provisions of Residential Landlord-Tenant Code of Delaware State).
3. Tenants Can Be Evicted If They Conduct Any Illegal Activity on The Rental Property
A landlord in Delaware is not required to provide a written notice to a tenant who has engaged in illegal behavior or caused harm to others within the rental unit.
In such cases, the landlord may file a complaint and proceed with eviction without providing prior written notice to the tenant.
This exception to the usual eviction process is in place to allow landlords to take swift action to protect the safety and well-being of other tenants and the property itself.
It is important to note that this exception only applies in cases of illegal behavior or irreparable harm, and that tenants who have not engaged in such activities are still entitled to receive written notice before eviction proceedings can begin.
In the state of Delaware, there are specific illegal activities that can result in eviction for tenants in rental properties. These activities include:
- Being convicted of a misdemeanor (class A) that may threaten or cause irreparable harm to the property, the landlord, or other tenants (e.g., theft of property).
- Being convicted of a felony that may threaten or cause harm to the property, the landlord, or other tenants (e.g., burglary, arson).
- Any threatening actions that may or cause harm to the property, the landlord, or other tenants
(See General Provisions of Residential Landlord-Tenant Code of Delaware State).
4. Tenants Can Be Evicted If There is No Renewal of the Lease When the Rental Agreement Ends
A landlord may choose not to renew a tenant’s lease or rental agreement. In such cases, the landlord must provide a written eviction notice to the tenant, requiring them to move out before their lease term ends. This notice must be provided to all tenants, regardless of whether their rental period is weekly, monthly, or fixed-term.
It’s important to note that the eviction notice must be given at least 60 days before the tenant is required to move out. It gives the tenant ample time to make other arrangements and find a new living place. (See General Provisions of Residential Landlord-Tenant Code of Delaware State).
What is the Process of Eviction in Delaware?
Step 1: Serving of Eviction Notice to the Tenant
A written notice is required for a landlord to initiate an eviction in Delaware. The notice can be delivered through one of three methods.
- The first method is for the landlord to deliver the notice in person to the tenant.
- The second method is for the notice to be given to a person of suitable age who is present on the premises and then mailed by the landlord through certified or registered mail with a return receipt or through first-class mail with postage prepaid and a certificate of mailing.
- The third method is for the notice to be posted in a conspicuous place on the premises and then mailed by the landlord through certified or registered mail with a return receipt or through first-class mail with postage prepaid and a certificate of mailing.
This process is just the start of the eviction process, and additional legal steps may be required depending on the specific circumstances.
5-Day Notice to Tenant to Quit
When the tenant is unable to pay the rent payments, the landlord has the right to issue a “5-Day Notice to Quit,” which serves as an eviction notice and gives the tenant a limited amount of time (5 judicial days) to either pay the outstanding rent balance or move out.
This notice period is designed to allow the tenant to rectify the situation and avoid eviction while also protecting the landlord’s interests and ensuring that they are able to collect the rent that is owed to them.
60-Day Notice to Tenant to Vacate
The state of Delaware has specific regulations in place for tenants who do not have a lease or have a month-to-month lease with their landlord. In such cases, the landlord has the right to issue a 60-day notice to vacate, which provides the tenant with 60 days to move out.
It’s worth noting that this notice period applies even if the tenant is not able to pay rent on a monthly basis. It means that regardless of how often the tenant pays rent, they are still required to vacate the property within 60 days of receiving the notice.
7-Day Notice to Tenant to Vacate or Comply
The state of Delaware has established a process by which landlords may serve eviction notices to tenants who violate the lease terms or legal responsibilities. If a tenant commits a minor violation, they may be served a 7-Day Notice to Vacate or Comply, which provides them with 7 calendar days to address the issue or vacate the premises.
This process appears to be designed to offer tenants a reasonable opportunity to correct any mistakes or oversights they may have made while still ensuring that landlords have recourse in cases where violations occur. However, if a tenant continues to violate the lease or legal responsibilities within a 12-month period, they may be served a 7-day notice to vacate, which effectively terminates their tenancy and requires them to move out.
Immediate Notice to Tenant to Vacate
Landlords have the legal right to serve tenants an Immediate Notice to Vacate if the tenant poses a threat of causing harm to other individuals or property. This notice effectively requires the tenant to move out immediately.
While the landlord can file an action for summary possession on the same day that the notice is served, they are not legally required to do so. It means that the landlord can choose to begin eviction proceedings through the court system, or they may opt to handle the situation through other means.
Step 2: Filing a Lawsuit in Court by Landlord
Landlords must follow a specific process in order to evict a tenant. This process involves filing a complaint with the appropriate court and paying a $45 filing fee.
The complaint must contain a section that details the facts of the case, including the names of the landlord and tenant, the address of the rental unit, and the grounds for eviction (such as failure to pay rent or violation of the lease agreement).
Additionally, a copy of the written notice sent to the tenant must be attached to the complaint, and the landlord must state what remedy they are seeking, such as full payment of rent.
Step 3: Court Summons and Sends Complaint to Tenant
Here are the guidelines for serving a summon and complaint to a tenant in Delaware in the event of an eviction action:
A constable must hand over the paper within a certain amount of time, usually between 5 to 30 days before the meeting. If the constable is not able to give the paper to the person in person, there are other ways to do it.
The alternative methods for delivery include:
- Serving the tenant with a copy in person.
- If the tenant is not present, then the copy must be left at the residence of the tenant, with an adult being the receiver.
- Serving the tenant with a copy via certified mail or first-class mail.
- Serving the tenant with a copy via posting it to the tenant’s residence.
These guidelines are essential to ensure that tenants are appropriately notified of the eviction action. The proper notification provides tenants with an opportunity to respond in a timely manner.
Step 4: Hearing in Court
The state of Delaware does not have a specific timeline in place for holding eviction hearings after a complaint has been filed with the court. The timing of the hearing may vary from a few days to a few weeks later. If the tenant fails to show up for the hearing, the judge will issue a default judgment in favor of the landlord. However, tenants have the option to file a motion to reopen the eviction case within 10 days of a default judgment.
Both the landlord and tenant have the option to request a 10-day continuance or a jury trial, which could further prolong the eviction process. Tenants are not required to submit a written answer to the court to attend the hearing or contest the eviction action.
If the judgment is made in favor of the landlord, then a writ of possession is issued, which will allow the eviction process to proceed.
Step 5: Issuing the Writ of Possession
After a judgment is made in favor of the landlord, the constable will issue a writ of possession, which gives the tenant 10 days to vacate the rental unit. If the tenant does not leave within that time frame, the constable may forcibly remove them from the premises after giving them 24 hours’ notice.
It’s worth noting that a fee of $35 is charged for issuing the writ. This process ensures landlords have a legal avenue to take back possession of their property if a tenant does not uphold their end of the rental agreement.
Step 6: The Property is Returned to the Landlord
The property is returned to the landlord by the constable. If the tenant has been evicted and has left their personal possessions on the property, the landlord is allowed to remove the possessions and store them for up to seven days, with the cost of storage being the responsibility of the tenant. If the tenant fails to claim their possessions within that time frame, then they will be considered abandoned.
What is the Timeline of Eviction in Delaware?
In Delaware, the process of evicting a tenant typically takes between one to three months to complete. It may seem like a long time, but it’s essential to understand that the eviction process is a legal one that must be followed in accordance with state and local laws to protect the rights of both landlords and tenants.
During this time, landlords and tenants may have the opportunity to negotiate and reach a resolution that is fair to both parties, which can help prevent the need for an eviction to take place.
What are the Court Fees for Eviction in Delaware?
The total cost of an eviction in Delaware is roughly $150, although it’s worth noting that service fees may be different depending on the county.
Resources for Updated Delaware Eviction Laws 2023
- The Delaware Code Online
- General Provisions of Residential Landlord-Tenant Code of Delaware State
- Landlord Obligations & Tenant Remedies in Delaware State
- Tenant Obligations & Landlord Remedies in Delaware State
How long does the eviction process take in Delaware?
The length of the eviction process in Delaware can vary, but it typically takes around a month from the time the landlord files for eviction to the time the tenant is legally required to leave the premises.
Can a landlord evict a tenant without a court order in Delaware?
No, a landlord cannot evict a tenant without a court order in Delaware. The landlord must go through the proper legal channels and obtain a court order before the eviction process can begin.
What reasons can a landlord evict a tenant in Delaware?
A landlord in Delaware can evict a tenant for a variety of reasons, including failure to pay rent, violation of the lease agreement, and damage to the property.
What notice is required before a landlord can file for eviction in Delaware?
In Delaware, a landlord must provide the tenant with a written notice of the reason for eviction and give them at least seven days to remedy the situation before filing for eviction.
Can a tenant challenge an eviction in Delaware?
Yes, a tenant can challenge an eviction in Delaware by filing a response with the court within five days of being served with the eviction notice. The court will then schedule a hearing to determine the validity of the eviction.
What happens if a tenant does not leave the property after being evicted in Delaware?
If a tenant does not leave the property after being evicted in Delaware, the landlord can obtain a writ of possession from the court, which allows them to physically remove the tenant and their belongings from the premises.
Are there any protections for tenants facing eviction in Delaware?
Yes, Delaware has some protections for tenants facing eviction, including a requirement for the landlord to provide written notice of the reason for eviction and the opportunity for the tenant to challenge the eviction in court. Additionally, tenants may be eligible for rental assistance to help them stay in their homes.