State Rules and Regulations for Delaware Rental Properties and Landlords
In Delaware, a lease can be oral or written, but oral leases cannot extend longer than 1 year. According to Delaware law (Residential Landlord-Tenant Code), a lease agreement grants the tenant certain rights, such as the right to a habitable dwelling and the right to seek out housing without discrimination.
Official Rules and Regulations in Delaware
- Delaware Code Title 25 §§ Ch. 55 – Ch. 59 – Landlord and Tenant
- Attorney General’s Summary of the Delaware Residential Landlord-Tenant Code (pdf)
Landlord Responsibilities in Delaware
Landlords in Delaware are required to keep the unit in habitable condition and must also make requested repairs in a timely manner (12 days). If they do not, then tenants have the right to take at least 2 forms of alternative action—they may withhold up to 2/3rds rent or make the repairs themselves and deduct the cost from future rental payments.
Landlords are not permitted to evict tenants for exercising their right to habitable housing (e.g. filing a health or safety complaint).
Delaware Landlord Tenant Laws – Tenant Responsibilities
- Use electricity, plumbing, appliances, heating, cooling, kitchen, and other facilities in a reasonable manner
- Cannot damage, deface, or destroy the property or premises, deliberately or negligently
- May not cause disturbances for neighbors
- May not change the locks without the landlords written consent unless an emergency has occurred with no contact from the landlord. Copies of the new keys must be provided to the landlord. In an emergency, the tenant has five days to change the locks and provide the landlord with a written notice as well as copies of the keys.
- Cannot exceed the number of occupants allowed by ordinance, set in the rental agreement, or by any covenant limiting use of the property
- Cannot engage in any illegal activities
Security Deposits and Delaware Regulations
● Security Deposit Maximum: One month’s rent for tenancies that are one year or longer. There is no limit for furnished units. (Del. Code § 5514 (a))
● Security Deposit Interest: No statute
● Separate Security Deposit Bank Account: Required, and the account must be with a bank that is federally insured. The landlord must disclose the location of the account. (Del. Code § 5514 (b))
● Non-Refundable Fees: No statute.
● Pet Deposits: A landlord may require a pet deposit, which cannot exceed one month’s rent. (Del. Code § 5514 (i))
● Application Fee: Application fees can be no more than 10% of the monthly rent, or $50. The application fee can be used by the landlord to check the tenant’s credit and background (landlords cannot charge separate credit check fees). (Del. Code § 5514 (d))
● Deadline for Returning Security Deposit: 20 days (Del. Code § 5514 (f))
● Permitted Uses of the Deposit: The landlord must know what does the security deposit cover . It may be used to pay to repair damages made by the tenant beyond normal wear and tear; to pay unpaid rent, late fees, and termination fees; any “reasonable expenses” accrued to the early termination of the rental agreement (Del. Code § 5514 (c)).
● Security Deposit Can Be Withheld: Yes (Del. Code § 5514 (c)).
● Require Written Description/Itemized List of Damages and Charges: Yes (Del. Code § 5514 (f))
● Receipt of Deposit: No statute
● Record Keeping of Deposit Withholdings: No statute
● Failure to Comply: Failure to disclose the location of the deposit, or failure to return the deposit, minus deductions, within 20 days can entitle the tenant to double the amount of the deposit, or the amount wrongfully withheld. (Del. Code § 5514 (g))
Delaware Lease, Rent & Fees
- Lease Provisions: No state statute. However, it is generally accepted that leases must use words with common and everyday meanings and must be clear and coherent.
- Late Fees: A landlord that wishes to impose a late fee is required to maintain an office in the county in which the rental property is located (a location where the tenants can pay the rent.). If the landlord does not have a local office, 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. A landlord cannot charge a late fee that is more than 5% of the rental amount. The late fee cannot be imposed until the rent is more than five days late. 25 Del. C. §§ 5106, 5107, 5501(b), and 5501(d).
- Increase in Rent: A landlord must give a tenant at least 60 days’ written notice to increase rent or change another term of a month -to-month lease. After the tenant has received the landlord’s notice of proposed changes, the tenant has 15 days in which to terminate the tenancy. Otherwise, the changes will go into effect. For long term leases, a landlord is not permitted to increase the rent until the lease agreement has terminated and a new tenancy commences (unless the lease agreement itself provides for a rent increase.) 25 Del. C. §§ 5106, 5107, 5501(b), and 5501(d).
- Retaliation or Discrimination: In the United States, a landlord is not permitted to increase rent in a discriminatory manner, i.e. race, gender, religion, etc. Landlords are also not permitted to increase rent in retaliation against a tenant if a tenant has exercised a legal right.
- Termination for Non-payment of Rent: A landlord must give a tenant at least five days in which to pay the outstanding rent or vacate the rental property. Should the tenant fail to do either, the landlord is then permitted to file for eviction. 25 Del. C. §§ 5106, 5107, 5501(b), and 5501(d).
Housing Discrimination and Delaware Law
Protected groups. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, familial status, or disability. These rules do not apply generally to owner-occupied homes or homes operated by religious organizations. Delaware state adds additional protections for tenants on the basis of marital status, age, creed, source of income, sexual orientation, gender identity, and domestic abuse victim status.
Discriminatory acts & penalties. Housing discrimination suits are handled by the Delaware Division of Human Relations. The following acts have been highlighted as potentially discriminatory when directed at a member of a protected class.
- Refusing to rent or sell on a bona fide offer
- Steering tenants towards certain neighborhoods
- Presenting a housing option as “unavailable” or “not right” for you
- Housing advertisements that say “no kids” or “professionals preferred”
- Refusing to make reasonable accommodations
- Providing different terms, conditions, or privileges
- Harassment meant to coerce tenants into acting against their own interests
Delaware Regulations Governing Notice of Entry
● Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Fixed End Date in Lease: 60 days notice prior to the expiration date (Del. Code § 5106 (c))
● Notice to Terminate Any Periodic Lease of a Year or More: There is no statute related to this specific time period. However, the statute allows landlords to “terminate any rental agreement,” with the exception of month-to-month agreements, with 60 days notice.(Del. Code § 5106 (c))
● Notice to Terminate a Periodic Lease – Month-to-Month: 60 days (Del. Code § 5106 (d))
● Notice to Terminate a Periodic Lease – Week-to-week: No statute
● Unconditional and Immediate Lease Termination: The landlord may terminate the lease immediately when a tenant causes or threatens to cause irreparable harm to a person or the property. (Del. Code § 5513 (b))
● Notice of date/time of Move-Out Inspection: No statute
● Eviction Notice for Nonpayment of Rent: 5 days (Del. Code § 5502 (a))
● Eviction Notice for Lease Violation: 7 days (Del. Code § 5513 (a))
● Required Notice before Entry: 48 Hours (Del. Code § 5509 (b))
● Entry Allowed with Notice for Maintenance and Repairs (non-emergency): Yes, 48 hours’ notice must be given (Del. Code § 5509 (b)).
● Emergency Entry Allowed without Notice: Allowed (Del. Code § 5509 (b))
● Entry Allowed During Tenant’s Extended Absence: Allowed (Del. Code § 5507 (b))
● Entry Allowed to Show Unit to Prospective Tenants: 48 hours, but a tenant may waive this requirement, in writing, to make it easier for prospective tenants or purchasers to view the property. (Del. Code § 5509 (b))
● Notice to Tenants for Pesticide Use: No statute
● Lockouts Allowed: No (Del. Code § 5313)
● Utility Shut-offs Allowed: No (Del. Code § 5313)
● Penalty for Self-Help Eviction: If the landlord attempts to exclude the tenant from the rental unit, the tenant can “recover treble the damages sustained or an amount equal to 3 times the per diem rent for the period of time the tenant was excluded from the unit, whichever is greater, and the costs of the suit excluding attorneys’ fees.” (Del. Code § 5313)
Evictions in Delaware
- Nonpayment of rent – If a Delaware tenant fails to pay rent then the landlords may issue a 5-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. If they do not pay, then the landlord may file for eviction.
- Lease violation – If a lease violation occurs then the landlord may provide a written 7-Day Notice to Cure or Quit. If the tenant fails to abide by the terms of the notice then the landlords may pursue eviction. Landlords do not need to provide any notice for second violations.
- Illegal acts – If a qualifying illegal act is committed on the premises, then the landlord may pursue immediate eviction.
At-will tenants are entitled to at least 60 days’ notice before eviction. It is also illegal for landlords to evict tenants as a form of retaliation or for discriminatory reasons.
State Agencies & Regulatory Bodies
● U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Delaware
● Delaware Department of Insurance
● Delaware Consumer Guide to Homeowner Insurance (pdf)
● Delaware Fraud and Consumer Protection Division
● Delaware Housing Commission
● Delaware Real Estate Commission