Delaware Landlord-tenant laws are complex and can be challenging to navigate. In many cases, they are only looked at when a problem arises. One reason these laws go unnoticed is that they are not always well-publicized, and tenants and landlords may need to be aware of their rights.
However, understanding these laws is crucial for tenants and landlords because they can help prevent disputes and legal issues.
By being informed, you can avoid potential conflicts and ensure that you are protected under the law.
So, let’s have a detailed look at Delaware landlord-tenant laws and gain a better understanding of your rights and obligations.
Is Delaware a Landlord-Friendly State?
When people refer to a state as “landlord-friendly,” they typically mean that its laws and regulations are generally more favorable to landlords than tenants. Conversely, when a state is considered “tenant-friendly,” the laws and regulations are generally more favorable to tenants than landlords.
Based on the landlord-tenant laws in Delaware, it is not considered a landlord-friendly state. The main reason is that tenants have a high degree of leverage over their landlords. It means that tenants have more rights and protections under the law, such as the ability to challenge rent increases or withhold rent for specific reasons. Additionally, Delaware does not prohibit rent control policies, meaning that individual municipalities within the state may impose their own rent limitations on landlords.
What are the Delaware Landlords-Tenant Laws?
Under Delaware’s Residential Landlord-Tenant laws, landlords have certain legal rights and responsibilities when renting out their properties. These include:
- The right to request rent payments on time: Landlords have the right to require tenants to pay rent on time and, in total, according to the terms of the lease agreement. They can also charge late rent fees that should be paid on time (see 70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1).
- The right to collect security deposits: Landlords in Delaware are allowed to collect security deposits from their tenants to cover any damages that may occur to the rental property during the tenancy. The security deposit cannot exceed one month’s rent (see 70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1).
- The right to pursue eviction: If a tenant violates the terms of the lease agreement, a landlord has the right to pursue a proper eviction claim in court. However, landlords must follow the proper legal procedures for eviction, including providing notice and allowing the tenant to cure any lease violations before pursuing eviction (see Del. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 25 § 5513).
What are the Responsibilities of Landlords in Delaware?
Under Delaware law, landlords have specific responsibilities when renting out their properties. One of the most important responsibilities is to keep the rental unit in a habitable condition. The unit must be safe, clean, and fit for human habitation. Specifically, landlords are required to provide the following:
- Working plumbing, hot water, and heating facilities;
- Adequate ventilation and air conditioning;
- Safe and functional electrical systems;
- Pest-free living environment;
- Properly maintained common areas; and
- Any other essential services that are included in the lease agreement.
Additionally, landlords in Delaware must make requested repairs within 15 days of receiving notice from the tenant. If they fail to do so, tenants have the right to take action to get the necessary repairs done.
Specifically, tenants can withhold up to two-thirds of their rent until the repairs are made, or they can make the repairs themselves 30 days after giving notice to the landlord and deduct the cost of repairs from the following month’s rent. However, the cost of repairs cannot exceed $400 or half a month’s rent, whichever is less (see 70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 2).
What are the Delaware Tenant Rights?
In Delaware, tenants have the right to seek a rental unit that meets the basic safety, health, and habitability standards as defined by local housing codes. It means that the landlord is responsible for ensuring that the property is in good condition and meets these standards before renting it out to tenants.
Tenants also have the right to seek housing without discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, or disability. Discrimination in housing is illegal under federal and state law, and tenants who believe they have been discriminated against can file a complaint with the appropriate agency.
If any repairs are needed for the rental unit, the tenant should notify the landlord in writing as soon as possible. The landlord is then responsible for making the necessary repairs within a reasonable time, typically within 15 days. If the landlord fails to make the repairs, the tenant may be able to withhold rent or take other legal action to enforce their rights (see 70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 2). However, it’s essential for the tenant to provide written notice to the landlord and to follow the proper legal procedures before taking any action.
What are the Responsibilities of Tenants in Delaware?
Tenants in Delaware are expected to fulfill specific responsibilities to maintain a healthy and positive landlord-tenant relationship. Here are some key responsibilities of tenants in Delaware:
- Paying rent on time: Tenants are responsible for paying rent on time according to the terms outlined in the lease agreement (see Del. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 25 § 5503).
- Keeping the rental unit clean: Tenants are responsible for keeping the rental unit clean and well-maintained. It includes cleaning appliances and fixtures such as sinks, toilets, and showers (see Del. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 25 § 5503).
- Maintain rental property: Tenants are responsible for minor maintenance tasks, such as changing light bulbs and replacing air filters (see Del. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 25 § 5503).
- Not disturb other tenants or neighbors: Tenants are expected to respect their neighbors and not create unnecessary disturbances or disruptions (see Del. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 25 § 5503).
- Follow all clauses mentioned in Delaware law and the lease agreement: The tenants must follow all provisions outlined in the lease agreement and the relevant Delaware landlord-tenant laws.
Tenants must fulfill their responsibilities to maintain a positive relationship with their landlord and avoid any potential legal issues.
Comparing Responsibilities of Landlords and Tenants in Delaware State
|Maintenance and Repairs|
|Ensure the property meets building and housing codes||Yes||No|
|Make repairs due to normal wear and tear||Yes||No|
|Make repairs due to tenant damage||No||Yes|
|Provide and maintain necessary utilities||Yes||No|
|Return the security deposit at the end of the lease, minus any deductions for damages or unpaid rent||Yes||No|
|Pay the security deposit at the start of the lease||No||Yes|
|Set a fair and reasonable rent amount||Yes||No|
|Pay rent on time||No||Yes|
|Notice to Enter|
|Provide reasonable notice before entering the rental unit||Yes||No|
|Allow the landlord to enter the rental unit for repairs or inspections||No||Yes|
|Termination of Lease|
|Provide notice before termination of lease||Yes||No|
|Move out at the end of the lease||No||Yes|
|Allow or prohibit pets in the rental unit||Yes||No|
|Obtain permission from the landlord before keeping a pet in the rental unit||No||Yes|
Rental Agreements in Delaware State (Rental Agreement General Clauses)
When it comes to rental agreements, Delaware law requires that any lease with a term of one year or longer must be in writing (see 70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1).
However, even for leases with shorter terms, it is always recommended to have a written agreement to help avoid any potential legal disputes down the line.
According to Delaware law, a rental agreement should include the following:
- Description of the leased premises: The rental agreement should include a description of the rented property, address, and unique features or amenities (see 70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1).
- Information about landlord and tenant: It should identify both the tenant and landlord by name and include their contact information (see 70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1).
- Payment of rent conditions: It should specify the amount of rent due, when it is due, and how it should be paid (see 70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1).
- Clauses related to lease violation: The rental agreement should outline the conditions under which the lease may be terminated due to a violation by the tenant, such as non-payment of rent or a breach of the lease terms (see 70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1).
- Clauses related to security deposit: The rental agreement should include information about any security deposit required and how it will be handled, including the amount, the deadline for return, and any conditions for its forfeiture (see 70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1).
- The person is responsible for repairs & utility bills: It should specify who is responsible for making repairs to the property and who is responsible for paying utilities (see 70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1).
It’s important to note that while these are the basic requirements for a rental agreement in Delaware, there may be additional provisions that landlords and tenants may want to include to clarify their expectations and protect their interests.
For more information on a rental agreement in Delaware state, refer to the landlord-tenant laws published in Title 25 of the Delaware Code, which the Attorney General’s Office oversees.
It’s essential to familiarize yourself with these laws if you are a landlord or tenant in Delaware, as they govern the rights and responsibilities of both parties.
Important Clauses in Delaware Landlord-Tenant Laws 2023
Mentioned below are the most important landlord-tenant clauses under Delaware Landlord-Tenant laws. Please refer to Delaware Code Annotated Title 25 for General Provisions of Residential Landlord-Tenant Code of Delaware State.
Security Deposit Clauses in Delaware State
1. Clause for Maximum Security Deposit
In Delaware, landlords are allowed to charge tenants a security deposit, typically used to cover any damages beyond normal wear and tear or any unpaid rent. The maximum amount that a landlord can charge for a security deposit is the equivalent of one month’s rent for a lease that is at least one year long. For month-to-month leases, there is no limit on the amount the landlord can charge for a security deposit. Also, landlords can request an additional pet security deposit equal to one month’s rent (see Del. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 25 § 5514).
2. Clause for Return of Security Deposit
When the tenant moves out, the landlord must return the security deposit to the tenant within 20 days, along with an itemized statement of deductions (see Del. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 25 § 5514).
3. Clause for Non-refundable Fees
It is not permitted in Delaware (see Del. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 25 § 5514).
4. Clause for Location of Security Deposit
The landlord must also disclose to the tenant the location where the security deposit is being held (see Del. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 25 § 5514).
Rent Increase and Other Fees Related Clauses in Delaware State
1. Clause for Increase in Rent
If a landlord wants to increase rent or change any other term of a month-to-month lease, they must give the tenant at least 60 days written notice. After receiving notice of the proposed changes, the tenant has 15 days to terminate the tenancy, or the changes will go into effect. For a long-term lease, a landlord is allowed to increase the rent once the termination of the lease agreement has happened and a new tenant has come (see Del. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 25 §§ 5106, 5107, 5501(b), and 5501(d)).
2. Clause for Retaliation or Discrimination
A landlord cannot increase rent in a discriminatory manner based on race, gender, religion, etc. They are also not allowed to increase rent in retaliation against a tenant who has exercised a legal right (see Del. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 25 §§ 5106, 5107, 5501(b), and 5501(d)).
3. Clause for Termination for Non-payment of Rent
If a tenant does not pay rent on time, the landlord must give them at least five days to pay the outstanding rent or vacate the rental property. The landlord can file for eviction if the tenant fails to do either (see Del. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 25 §§ 5106, 5107, 5501(b), and 5501(d)).
4. Clause for Late Fees
A landlord in Delaware can impose a late fee if they maintain an office in the county where the rental property is located. If the landlord does not have a local office, then the tenant has three additional days after the rent due date to pay the rent before the landlord is allowed to impose a late fee. The late fee can be up to 5% of the rental amount and can only be imposed once the rent is more than five days late (see Del. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 25 §§ 5106, 5107, 5501(b), and 5501(d)).
Lease Termination, Eviction, and Other Related Clauses in Delaware State
1. Clause for Unconditional Quit Notice
It is an order that requires a tenant to vacate the premises within a shorter period of time than is allotted in the lease agreement. In Delaware, a landlord is allowed to use an unconditional termination notice. This notice requires the tenant to vacate the property within seven days. It is done on the basis of a violation of a lease provision which constitutes a violation of a county, municipal, or state code or statute.
If the tenant repeats the same violation of a material lease provision within 12 months, the landlord can require the tenant to vacate the rental unit within seven days. Additionally, a landlord can require a tenant to immediately vacate the rental unit for a violation of law or breach of the lease agreement, which causes or is threatened to cause irreparable harm to the landlord’s property or to other tenants (see Del. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 25 §§ 5513 and 5514).
2. Clause for Eviction
If the material term of the lease agreement is violated by the tenant, then the landlord is allowed to do the termination of the lease agreement. It can be done with the help of an unconditional quit notice. For eviction, a seven days warning must be given by the landlord to the tenant. Only then, the eviction proceedings can be started. If the tenant fails to eliminate the problem or vacates (voluntarily) the rental property, then the landlord’s next step is to serve a Summons and Complaint (see Del. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 25 §§ 5513 and 5514).
3. Clause for Victims of Domestic Violence
In Delaware, if a tenant is a victim of domestic violence, the following rules apply:
- A landlord is not allowed to terminate the lease of a domestic violence victim early
- A landlord is entitled to proof of the tenant’s domestic violence status
- Domestic violence victims have the right to early termination
Property Habitability and Rent Withholding Clauses in Delaware State
In Delaware, all tenants have fundamental rights that entitle them to a rental unit that meets essential health, structural, and safety standards and is in good repair. Landlords are legally responsible for keeping the rental unit in reasonable repair and fit for human habitation, including maintaining all electrical, plumbing, and heating systems. It is known as a “warranty of habitability,” and it cannot be waived or modified by the parties to the lease.
If the landlord fails to maintain the rental unit correctly, the tenant has the right to take specific actions to address the situation. For example, the tenant may withhold rent until the necessary repairs are made. The tenant also has the right to make repairs to the rental unit and then deduct those costs from the rent.
It’s important to note that tenants should only withhold rent or make repairs themselves after first giving the landlord notice and a reasonable opportunity to fix the problem. If the landlord fails to take action after receiving notice, the tenant may then exercise their rights to withhold rent or make repairs (see Del. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 25 §§ 5307 and 5308).
Housing Discrimination Clauses in Delaware
In Delaware State, housing discrimination is illegal and protected under both federal and state laws. Under the Federal Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to discriminate against a person in housing on the basis of race, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, familial status, religion, or disability. However, these rules may not apply to some homes run by religious organizations or owner-occupied homes.
Delaware state law goes a step further to protect tenants on the basis of age, marital status, source of income, creed, and domestic abuse victim status. It means that landlords and property managers cannot discriminate against tenants based on these characteristics.
If a tenant believes they have been a victim of housing discrimination, they can file a complaint with the Delaware Division of Human Relations, which handles housing discrimination suits. Penalties for housing discrimination can include fines and other legal action.
Resources for Updated Delaware Landlord-Tenant Laws 2023
To get the latest and complete information regarding the landlord-tenant laws in Delaware state, please refer to the following government-backed official resources:
- The Delaware Code Online
- General Provisions of Residential Landlord-Tenant Code of Delaware State
- Landlord Obligations and Tenant Remedies in Delaware State
- Tenant Obligations and Landlord Remedies in Delaware State
- Delaware Division of Human and Civil Rights
- Fair Housing Information Center
- Delaware State Housing Authority
What are the tenant’s rights in Delaware?
Tenants in Delaware have the right to a habitable and safe living space, protection against discrimination, and the ability to withhold rent or make repairs if the landlord fails to maintain the rental property.
How much notice does a landlord need to give before increasing rent in Delaware?
In Delaware, landlords must give tenants at least 60 days’ notice before increasing rent.
What are the penalties for landlords who violate Delaware landlord-tenant laws?
Penalties for landlords who violate Delaware’s landlord-tenant laws include fines, loss of rental income, and the requirement to make necessary repairs.
Can a landlord evict a tenant without a court order in Delaware?
No, landlords in Delaware cannot evict a tenant without a court order.
Is Delaware a “Landlord Friendly” State?
No, Delaware is not considered a “Landlord Friendly” state as tenants have strong legal protections and remedies under Delaware’s landlord-tenant laws.