Delaware Landlord Tenant Laws

This is a summary of Delaware Landlord-Tenant laws that apply to residential (non-commercial) rentals. These references were compiled from the Delaware code and various online sources to serve as a reference and for people wanting to learn about Delaware landlord-tenant laws, Delaware eviction laws, and Delaware renters’ rights. 

However, this guide is not comprehensive and PayRent does not warrant the accuracy of this information. Statutes can change any time the state legislature passes a new law. Additionally, counties and cities may have different regulations. Given its limitations, this guide is not an adequate substitute for legal advice from a knowledgeable lawyer.  If you are dealing with a landlord-tenant issue, seek guidance from a qualified attorney. If you need help finding an attorney, we’ve included a list of attorney referral services in this guide.

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Rules and Regulations Governing Delaware Landlord Tenant Laws

Delaware Lease Terms Provisions

Rental Security Deposits in Delaware

  • What is the maximum allowable security deposit?
    The security deposit cannot exceed one month’s rent when the tenancy is one year or longer. There is no limit to what landlords can charge for furnished units. (25 Del. C § 5514(a))
  • Are security deposits required to earn interest?

No. There is no Delaware law requiring security deposits to earn interest.

  • Do landlords need to store security deposits in a separate bank account? 

Yes, security deposits must be held in a security deposit account. (25 Del. C § 5514(b))

  • Are non-refundable fees, such as pet fees, prohibited?

No. Landlord can require a pet deposit. Damage to the dwelling unit caused by an animal must first be deducted from a pet deposit. If such deposit is insufficient, it can be deducted from the security deposit. Pet deposit cannot exceed one month’s rent, regardless of the duration of rental agreement. Landlord can require an additional deposit from tenant with a pet, but it cannot be required from a tenant if such pet is a duly certified and trained support animal for a disabled person who lives in the dwelling unit. (25 Del. C § 5514(i)).

  • How long do landlords have to return security deposits?

20 days.  (25 Del. C § 5514(e))

  • Can landlords withhold security deposits?

Yes. Landlords can use the deposit to cover accrued rent and late fees; to repair any damages to the property that exceed ordinary wear and tear, and to cover the cost of renovating and rerenting if the tenant breaks the lease.  (25 Del. C § 5514(c))

  • Are landlords required to itemize damages and fees deducted from security deposits?

Yes. Landlords shall provide the tenant with an itemized list of damages and the estimated costs of repair for each along with payment for the difference between the security deposit and such costs of repair of damage to the premises. Tenant has 10 days from the receipt of such itemized list to dispute charges. (25 Del. C § 5514(f))

  • Do landlords have to issue receipts upon receiving security deposits?

No. There is no Delaware law requiring landlords to issue receipts for security deposits.

  • Are there any specific requirements for record-keeping for deposit withholdings?

No. There is no Delaware law specifying record-keeping requirements.

  • What happens when a landlord does not return a security deposit within the required timeframe?

The tenant will be entitled to twice the amount wrongfully withheld if the landlord does not return the deposit and/ or a list of damages in 20 days.  (25 Del. C § 5514(g)(1))

Delaware Rent Laws

  • Is there a cap on how much landlords can charge for rent? (rent control)

No. There are no rent control laws in Delaware. However, if landlord and tenant didn’t agree on the consideration for rent and such agreement is absent, tenant must pay to landlord a reasonable sum for the use and occupation of the dwelling unit. (25 Del. C § 5501(a)).

  • When is rent due?

Rent is due at the time and place agreed upon by the landlord and tenant. Unless they agree to a different arrangement, rent is due at the beginning of any term for 1 month or less, while 1 month’s rent must be payable at the beginning of each month of a longer term. (25 Del. C § 5501(b))

  • Does rent need to be paid using a certain method of payment?

No. There is no Delaware law requiring a certain payment method for rent. However,  if a landlord accepts cash payment for rent, the landlord must give the tenant a receipt for that payment within 15 days.  Landlord shall maintain the record of all cash receipts for rent for a period of 3 years. (25 Del. C § 5501(e))

Rental Fees in Delaware

  • Can landlords charge late fees when rent is late?

Yes. Where the rental agreement provides for a late charge, it cannot exceed 5 percent of the monthly rent. (25 Del. C § 5501(d))

  • Do landlords have to allow for a grace period for paying rent before charging late fees?

Yes. Landlords must wait 5 days before charging late fees, or 8 days if the landlord does not have an office in the county where the rental property is located.. (25 Del. C § 5501(d))

  • Can landlords charge application fees?

Yes. A landlord may charge an application fee, not to exceed the greater of either 10 percent of the monthly rent for the rental unit or $50. (25 Del. C § 5514(d))

  • Can landlords charge returned check fees?

Yes. Landlords can charge a late fee of $40, plus court costs. (6 Del. C. § 1301A)

Delaware Landlord Tenant Relations

Notices

  • Are landlords required to provide tenants with notice of rent increases between lease terms?

Yes. If the landlord intends to renew the rental agreement subject to amended or modified provisions, the landlord shall give the tenant a minimum of 60 days’ written notice before the expiration of the rental agreement. (25 Del. C § 5107(a))

  • Are landlords required to provide tenants with notice of pesticide use on the property?

No. There is no Delaware law requiring landlords to provide tenants with notice of pesticide use on the rental property.

  • What notice is required to terminate a fixed-end lease?

Either the landlord or the tenant can terminate the lease with 60 days’ written notice. (25 Del. C § 5106(c))

  • What notice is required to terminate a month-to-month periodic lease?

Either the landlord or the tenant can terminate the lease with 60 days’ written notice, but the 60-day period will not begin until the first day of the month following the day of actual notice. (25 Del. C § 5106(c)), 25 Del. C § 5106(d)).

  • Is notice of the date and time of the move out inspection required?

There is no statute in Delaware law covering this issue. 

Entry Provisions

  • What notice must a landlord give a tenant before entering the rental unit?

The landlord must give the tenant at least 48 hours’ notice, except for entry to perform repairs requested by the tenant, and shall enter only between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. (25 Del. C § 5509(b))

  • When can landlords enter the rental premises without providing notice to their tenants?

Landlord’s Duties (25 Del. C § 5305(a))

  • Supply the dwelling unit bargained for at the beginning of the term and put tenant into full possession (25 Del. C § 5303).
  • Comply with all applicable provisions of any state or local statute, code, regulation, or ordinance governing the maintenance, construction, use, or appearance of the rental unit and the property of which it is a part.
  • Provide a rental unit that shall not endanger the health, welfare, or safety of the tenants or occupants and which is fit for the purpose for which it is expressly rented.
  • Keep in a clean and sanitary condition all common areas of the buildings, grounds, facilities, and appurtenances thereto which are maintained by the landlord.
  • Make all repairs and arrangements necessary to put and keep the rental unit and the appurtenances thereto in as good a condition as they were, or ought by law or agreement to have been, at the commencement of the tenancy.
  • Maintain all electrical, plumbing, and other facilities supplied by the landlord in good working order. (25 Del. C § 5305(a))
  • If rental agreement specifies this, landlord must provide and maintain appropriate receptacles and conveniences for the removal of ashes, rubbish and garbage and arrange for the frequent removal of such waste, and supply or cause to be supplied, water, hot water, heat and electricity to the rental unit. (25 Del. C § 5305(b)). 

Tenant’s Duties (25 Del. C § 5303)

  • Tenants must comply with all obligations imposed upon tenants by building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety.
  • Tenants must keep that part of the premises that the tenant occupies and uses as clean and safe as the condition of the premises permits.
  • Tenants must dispose of all ashes, garbage, rubbish, and other waste cleanly and safely.
  • Tenants must keep all plumbing fixtures as clean as their condition permits.
  • Tenants must use all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and other facilities and appliances including elevators in the premises in a reasonable manner;
  • Tenants must not willfully or wantonly destroy, deface, damage, impair, or remove any part of the premises; or permit any guest to do so.
  • Not remove or tamper with a properly functioning smoke detector installed by the landlord, including removing any working batteries, to render the smoke detector inoperative.
  •  Not remove or tamper with a properly functioning carbon monoxide detector installed by the landlord, including removing any working batteries, to render the carbon monoxide detector inoperative.
  • Comply with all covenants, rules, and requirements and the like under §§ 5511 and 5512 of this title; and which the landlord can demonstrate are reasonably necessary for the preservation of the property and persons of the landlord, other tenants, or any other person. (25 Del. C § 5503)
  • Any defective condition of the unit which comes to the tenant’s attention, and which the tenant has reason to believe is the duty of the landlord or of another tenant to repair, shall be reported in writing by the tenant to the landlord as soon as is practicable. (25 Del. C § 5505). 
  • The rental agreement can require the tenant notify the landlord in writing of any anticipated extended absence from the unit no later than the 1st day of such absence. (25 Del. C § 5506).
  • Tenant shall not unreasonably withhold consent for the landlord to enter into the dwelling unit to inspect the premises, make necessary repairs, decorations, alterations or improvements, supply services as agreed to or exhibit the unit to prospective purchasers, mortgagees or tenants. (25 Del. C § 5509).
  • Tenant and all others in the unit with the tenant’s consent must obey all obligations or restrictions, whether denominated by landlord as “rules,” “regulations,” “restrictions” or otherwise, concerning the tenant’s use, occupation and maintenance of the dwelling unit, appurtenances thereto and the property of which the dwelling unit is a part. (25 Del. C § 5511).

Required Landlord Disclosures

  • Landlords are required to disclose in writing the names and business addresses of the owners of the premises or their appointed resident agents. (25 Del. C § 5105(a))
  • Where there is a written rental agreement, the landlord is required to provide a copy to the tenant, free of charge. In the case of an oral agreement, landlord shall, on demand, furnish tenant with a written statement containing the above-mentioned information required to be disclosed by landlord (25 Del. C § 5105(b))
  • Landlords must provide new tenants with a summary of the Landlord-Tenant Code, as prepared by the Consumer Protection Unit of the Attorney General’s Office or its successor agency. If the landlord fails to provide the summary, the tenant may plead ignorance of the law as a defense. (25 Del. C § 5118)
  • Before renting pre-1978 property, landlords must disclose all known lead paint hazards. Landlords must also provide tenants, as an attachment to a written lease, with an information pamphlet on lead-based paint hazards. (16 CFR 1303, 42 U.S. Code § 4852d) . If the landlord fails to disclose all known lead paint hazards, the landlord can face fines of up to $19,507 for each violation (24 CFR 30.65)

Delaware Renters’ Rights

  • What rights do tenants have if their landlords breach their duties? (See Landlord’s Duties)

If there exists any condition which deprives the tenant of a substantial part of the benefit or enjoyment of the tenant’s bargain, the tenant may notify the landlord in writing of the condition and, if the landlord does not remedy the condition within 15 days following receipt of the notice, the tenant may terminate the rental agreement. (25 Del. C § 5306(a))

  • Are tenants allowed to withhold rent for needed repairs or other breaches of their landlords’ duties?

Yes. If the tenant has provided the landlord with written notice of the issue and the landlord has failed to fix the issue within 30 days from the receipt of the notice or has failed to initiate reasonable corrective measures where appropriate within 10 days from the receipt of the notice, the tenant may repair and deduct from the rent a reasonable sum not exceeding $400 or half of one month’s rent whichever is less. The tenant must submit copies of receipts. (25 Del. C § 5307(a))

If the landlord substantially fails to provide hot water, heat, water, or electricity to a tenant for 48 hours or more, the tenant may terminate the lease or keep ⅔ of the daily rent amount during the period where hot water, heat, water, or electricity is not supplied. (25 Del. C § 5308(a))

  • What are the protections for tenants against retaliation from their landlords for exercising their Delaware renter’s rights?

Delaware law prohibits landlords from increasing rent, decreasing services, or bringing or threatening to bring an action for possession if the tenant has complained about a violation of a building, housing, sanitary, or other code or ordinance to the landlord or an authority charged with the enforcement of such code or ordinance; a state or local government authority has filed a notice or complaint of such violation of a building, housing, sanitary or other code or ordinance; the tenant has organized or is an officer of a tenant’s organization; or the tenant has pursued or is pursuing any legal right or remedy arising from the tenancy.  (25 Del. C § 5516(b)(1))

Delaware Eviction Laws

  • What are the reasons that landlords can evict tenants under Delaware eviction laws?
    • Nonpayment of rent  (25 Del. C § 5502(a))
    • Violation of the lease terms / rental agreement  (25 Del. C § 5513(a))
    • Illegal activity including a conviction of a class A misdemeanor or felony, or any other action that causes/threatens to cause irreparable harm to person/property.(25 Del. C § 5513(b))
    • The tenant remains in possession without the landlord’s consent after expiration or termination of the term of the rental agreement (holdover tenancy). (25 Del. C § 5702(1))
  • What notice must landlords provide tenants before starting the eviction process in Delaware?
    • For evictions based on non-payment of rent, the landlord must give 5 days’ notice to remedy the breach before starting the eviction process. (25 Del. C § 5502(a))
  • For evictions based on the violation of lease terms, the landlord must give 7 days’ notice to remedy the breach before starting the eviction process.   (25 Del. C § 5513(a))
  • For evictions based on illegal activity, landlords must give notice that the lease is being immediately terminated, but can then immediately start the eviction process. Landlords do not have to permit the tenant to cure these types of breaches. (25 Del. C § 5513(b))
  • For evictions based on a holdover tenancy, landlords must provide at least 60 days’ notice to terminate a tenancy. If the tenant remains on the rental property after the termination date, the landlord can begin the eviction process without providing additional notice. (25 Del. C § 5106)
  • Are landlords permitted to use “self-help eviction” methods, such as locking a tenant out of the rental unit or shutting off the utilities? 

No. If a landlord evicts a tenant using self-help methods, the tenant can choose to recover possession or terminate the lease. The tenant may also recover treble the damages sustained or an amount equal to 3 times the per diem rent for the time the tenant was excluded from the unit, whichever is greater, and the costs of the suit excluding attorneys’ fees. (25 Del. C § 5313)

COVID-19 Changes to Delaware Landlord-Tenant Laws

Squatter’s rights in Delaware

Under Homestead Act of 1862, individuals (squatters) can possess the property if they have lived there for a specific period of time, done so publicly, made repairs to the property, have deed to the property and have paid rent or taxes on this property.

Delaware has no specific laws recognizing squatters.

The squatter can claim adverse possession after living on the property for at least 20 years (10 Del. C § 7901).

Government 

Realtor and Landlord-Tenant Associations

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