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!
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 real estate investors are granted certain rights that allow them to run profitable and efficient rental property businesses. Some of those rights include:
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:
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:
Tenants in Delaware also have obligations to fulfill in order to maintain a well-functioning rental agreement. These responsibilities include:
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:
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 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.
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.
Delaware rental laws require landlords to make the following mandatory disclosures to renters in writing. Some of the main disclosures include:
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.