Delaware Landlord-Tenant Laws: Full Guide for 2023

Learn the Delaware landlord-tenant code and other real estate laws regarding rent, repair and maintenance, eviction, and more.

By
Rachel Robinson
|
Last Updated
August 10, 2023
Delaware Landlord-Tenant Laws: Full Guide for 2023

In Delaware, both landlords and tenants face the challenge of navigating a complex network of laws and regulations that directly impact their rights, obligations, and interactions. The state's landlord-tenant laws are thorough, but they can be overwhelming and even daunting.

To ease your journey into Delaware rental laws, we have crafted this comprehensive guide that simplifies these laws, empowering landlords to protect their investments and cultivate positive relationships with their tenants. At the same time, it equips tenants with the knowledge needed to assert their rights and maintain a healthy and safe living environment.

This all-inclusive guide covers a broad spectrum of essential topics, including tenant screening, security deposits, lease agreements, and eviction procedures. With this valuable resource in hand, you'll confidently navigate Delaware's legal landscape under Landlord Tenant Code Title 25. Let's get started!

Is Delaware considered a landlord-friendly state?

Delaware is not considered a landlord-friendly state for several reasons. First, tenants in Delaware have significant leverage over their landlords, supported by robust tenant protection laws that prioritize their rights. 

Conversely, the state lacks comprehensive statewide regulations for landlords, potentially resulting in fewer protections for them. Despite this, landlords can succeed by familiarizing themselves with local regulations and landlord-tenant laws, maintaining open communication with tenants, and fulfilling their responsibilities.

That said, Delaware may still be an attractive option for real estate investors — according to Azibo data, Delware is in the top five states for on-time rent payments.

Delaware landlord responsibilities and rights

Rights

Delaware real estate investors are granted certain rights that allow them to run profitable and efficient rental property businesses. Some of those rights include:

  • Requesting on-time rent payments
  • Collecting a security deposit to cover damages beyond normal wear and tear
  • Pursuing an eviction claim in the case the tenant violates the terms of the lease

Responsibilities

Laws in Delaware also hold landlords responsible for certain obligations that ensure a smooth tenancy and habitable living environment for their renters. Some of their main responsibilities include:

  • Providing a habitable rental unit that meets local safety and health regulations
  • Making repairs within 15 days of written notice
  • Providing 48 hours’ notice before entering the property

Delaware tenants rights and responsibilities

Rights

Delaware rental law guarantees tenants certain fundamental rights to ensure their safety and respect while residing in a rental unit. Some of these rights include:

  • Living in a habitable property that meets local housing and safety rules
  • Seeking housing without discrimination from a prospective landlord
  • Requesting repairs, and in certain cases, withholding rent or utilizing the “repair and deduct” remedy when the repairs are not made in a timely manner
  • Living in a property without interference with their privacy or right to quiet enjoyment

Responsibilities

Tenants in Delaware also have obligations to fulfill in order to maintain a well-functioning rental agreement. These responsibilities include:

  • Paying rent on time
  • Maintaining the unit in good condition
  • Performing small maintenance jobs as needed
  • Maintaining a quiet environment that doesn’t disturb other renters or neighbors
  • Adhering to the terms outlined in the lease agreement

Delaware landlord tenant laws through the rental cycle

Delaware tenant screening and rental application laws

Assuming they have written permission, Delaware landlords have the right to screen prospective tenants through an application process. The Delaware landlord-tenant code states the following about tenant screening:

  • The state of Delaware limits the amount a landlord can charge a prospective tenant for an application fee.
  • The fee cannot be more than 10% of one month’s rent.
  • Application fees are considered non-refundable in the state.

Delaware lease agreement laws

Delaware state code requires rental agreements over a year or longer to be in writing. Otherwise, the lease may be oral or written. Yet, it’s always advisable to have a written agreement in place, as it outlines the rights and obligations of both the landlord and tenant.

Landlords should ensure they are including both general and state-specific clauses in their lease agreements.

Both landlords and tenants in Delaware have the right to terminate the rental agreement early for certain reasons. Landlords can terminate the lease early if the tenant fails to pay rent, violates the lease agreement, or partakes in criminal activity.

On the other hand, tenants have the right to terminate the rental agreement early for the following reasons:

  • Early termination clause
  • Active military duty
  • Lease violation
  • Senior citizens or health issues
  • Uninhabitable unit
  • Domestic violence

Month-to-month tenants must provide a 60-day advance notice prior to terminating the lease early. For all other tenancy lengths, the Delaware state code does not specify the notice period.

Delaware security deposit laws

Delaware rental owners can only charge up to the equivalent of one month’s rent for the security deposit except for furnished rental units, for which there is no limit. Landlords must hold the security deposit in a federally insured bank with an office in the state.

At the end of a tenancy, the security deposit must be returned within 20 days. Tenants can sue for twice the amount wrongfully withheld, plus court costs, if it’s returned late.

Landlords in the state have the right to withhold a portion or all of the security deposit if there are damages beyond normal wear and tear, unpaid rent, late fees, or costs due to early termination of the lease agreement.

Delaware rent laws

Since Delaware doesn’t have rental control laws, landlords may charge any amount of rent that they consider appropriate for their property. However, it’s important to note that state law does not prevent cities and towns from creating their own rent control laws.

Unless otherwise stated, landlords can collect rent payments at the beginning of the month at an agreed-upon place.

Delaware landlords cannot raise rent during the lease term unless the lease agreement allows for it. Additionally, if the rental property is a mobile home, rent increases are limited to once per year.

Landlords must provide 60 days’ notice before raising rent, and for mobile homes, a 90-day notice is required.

If a Delaware tenant fails to pay rent, landlords are required to give a five-day grace period before charging a late fee, except in the case the tenant can’t pay in person in the county the rental is located, the minimum grace period is eight days. Landlords cannot charge more than 5% of the monthly rent for a late fee.

Delaware repair and maintenance laws

Like in most states, landlords in Delaware cannot rent out a property unless it meets basic health and safety requirements. This means it must meet the warrant of habitability. If it breaches the warrant of habitability, tenants can report landlords to government authorities for unsafe living conditions.

In Delaware, landlords must make repairs within 15 days of written notification from the tenant.

If the landlord fails to make repairs in a timely manner, tenants can sue the landlord for costs, or submit a court order to force the landlord to make the repairs. In some severe cases, Delaware renters have the option to terminate the lease agreement early or use the “repair and deduct” remedy. They may also withhold rent altogether.

Delaware notice of entry laws

Similar to other states, Delaware landlords have the right to enter their rental property for maintenance, inspections, and property showings. 

Other than special circumstances like emergencies, landlords must give 48 hours of notice before entering the property. Those who don’t risk impeding on the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment and privacy.

Delaware eviction laws

In Delaware, a landlord can move forward with the eviction process for several reasons, and the required notice period depends on the specific situation. Here are the main reasons a landlord can evict a tenant and the required notice period:

  1. Unpaid rent: If a tenant fails to pay rent, the landlord must serve a 5-day notice to pay, which means the tenant has five days to pay the rent or leave the property. If they do not pay, then the landlord can move forward with eviction.
  2. Lease violation: If a tenant violates the lease agreement, the landlord can serve a seven-day notice to comply or vacate. If the tenant fails to abide by the regulations, the landlord may move forward with eviction. Landlords are not required to provide a notice for a second violation.
  3. End of lease/no lease: Landlords are required to provide a 60-day notice to quit for at-will tenants prior to moving forward with an eviction.
  4. Illegal activity: If a landlord has documentation of illegal activities occurring on the property, they may move forward with the eviction process immediately.

It is important to note that landlords in Delaware must follow specific procedures and comply with state law when evicting a tenant. This means that self-help evictions, which is the act of forcibly removing tenants or their belongings, is strictly prohibited.

Additional Delaware rental property laws

In addition to regulations covering general issues such as repairs and security deposits, Delaware law also covers specific rights and responsibilities for topics such as renter discrimination laws and landlord retaliation. We’ll explore some of these topics below.

Delaware housing discrimination laws

Delaware rental property owners must adhere to the Federal Fair Housing Act and laws and cannot discriminate against tenants based on protected characteristics such as race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, source of income, and domestic violence victim status.

Delaware's Fair Housing Act also includes additional provisions relating to discrimination against persons with disabilities. These provisions require landlords to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities, such as allowing service animals or making modifications to the rental unit to accommodate the tenant's disability.

Retaliation laws

Like in many states, it’s illegal for landlords in Connecticut to retaliate against tenants for exercising their legal rights like reporting a landlord to government authorities for health and safety violations.

Retaliatory actions include raising rent, reducing services, or evicting the renter within six months after the tenant takes the protected action.

Required landlord disclosures in Delaware

Delaware rental laws require landlords to make the following mandatory disclosures to renters in writing. Some of the main disclosures include:

  • Lead-based paint: Landlords with rentals built before 1978 must provide information about concentrations of lead paint.
  • Authorized agents: Landlords must provide their names and addresses along with all parties involved in owning and managing the property.
  • Landlord-tenant law: Landlords must provide the Summary of Delaware Residential Landlord-Tenant Code at the beginning of the tenancy.
  • Security deposit: Landlords must disclose the name and location of the bank where the security deposit will be held.

Bottom line: Why you need to understand Delaware landlord tenant law

In Delaware, comprehending the nuances of landlord-tenant laws is vital for establishing a harmonious relationship. These well-crafted laws aim to protect the rights and responsibilities of both rental property owners and tenants.

By acquainting themselves with and adhering to these regulations, landlords in Delaware can safeguard their investments, foster positive relationships with renters, and efficiently manage their properties. Simultaneously, this knowledge empowers Delaware tenants to confidently assert their rights and ensure a safe, respectful home.

Regardless of whether you’re a landlord or a tenant in Delaware, having a solid grasp of the state's landlord-tenant laws lays the groundwork for a mutually beneficial relationship. This knowledge promotes transparent communication, fair practices, and coexistence between the two parties.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials are for general informational purposes only. This content may not constitute the most up-to-date legal information. No reader, user, or browser of this article should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information herein without first seeking the advice of a legal professional.

Rachel Robinson

Rachel Robinson has 6 years of experience in writing, editing, and SEO, specializing in rental property and real estate. She excels in market trends and landlord-tenant dynamics, producing content that drives traffic and informs. Outside of work, she enjoys climbing Colorado's granite boulders.

A hand illustration holding a house with flowers coming out of the roofA logo spelling dont miss out, the rental rundown
Whether you're a property owner, renter, property manager, or real estate agent, gain valuable insights, advice, and updates by joining our blog newsletter.
Subscriber Identity
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
A green hill illustration with houses