This article summarizes some key Delaware rental laws applicable to residential rental units.
The Official State Statutes and other reputable municipal sources were used to research this information. All sources are cited appropriately.
With that said, landlord-tenant laws are always changing, and may even vary from county to county. You have a responsibility to perform your own research and cautiously apply the laws to your unique situation.
If you have a legal question or concern, I only recommend contacting a licensed attorney referral service that is operated by the state bar association. This article is not intended to be exhaustive or a substitute for qualified legal advice.
Official Rules and Regulations
- Delaware Code Title 25 §§ Ch. 55 – Ch. 59 – Landlord and Tenant
- Attorney General’s Summary of the Delaware Residential Landlord-Tenant Code (pdf)
- Security Deposit Maximum: 1 Month’s Rent where the tenancy is 1 year or longer. No limit for furnished units. (§ 5513 (a))
- Security Deposit Interest: No statute
- Separate Security Deposit Bank Account: Required. The landlord must also disclose the location of the security deposit account. (§ 5513 (a))
- Pet Deposits: A landlord may require an additional pet deposit equal to 1 month’s rent or less. (§ 5513 (i))
- Application Fee: No more than 10% of the monthly rent, or $50. (§ 5513 (d))
- Non-Refundable Fees: No statute
- Deadline for Returning Security Deposit: 20 days (§ 5513 (f))
- Permitted Uses of the Deposit: (§ 5513 (c))
- Reimbursement for actual damages which exceed normal wear and tear, or which cannot be corrected by painting and ordinary cleaning
- Unpaid rent, late fees, or termination fees
- All reasonable expenses incurred in renovating and rerenting the premises caused by the premature termination of the rental agreement by the tenants, not to exceed 1 month’s rent.
- Require Written Description/Itemized List of Damages and Charges: Yes (§ 5513 (f))
- Record Keeping of Deposit Withholdings: No statute
- Receipt of Deposit: 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 double the amount wrongfully withheld. (§ 5513 (g))
Lease, Rent & Fees:
- Written Agreement: No rental agreement, unless in writing, shall be effective for a longer term than 1 year. (§ 5106 (a))
- Month-to-Month Assumed: Where no term is expressly provided, a rental agreement will be deemed and construed to be for a month-to-month term. (§ 5106 (b))
- Rent Is Due: Rent is due at the time and place agreed to by the parties. Unless otherwise agreed, the entire rent shall be payable at the beginning of any term for 1 month or less, while 1 month’s rent shall be payable at the beginning of each month of a longer term. (§ 5501 (b))
- Rent Increase Notice: 60 days. Tenant then has 15 days to notify the landlord if they plan to terminate the lease at the end of the 60 days, otherwise the new terms are considered accepted. (§ 5107)
- Rent Grace Period: 5 Days, unless the landlord doesn’t have an office in the county where the rental property is located, and the grace period is 8 days. (§ 5501 (d))
- Late Fees: Not to exceed 5% of the rent amount. Any late fees are considered as additional rent. (§ 5501 (d))
- Receipts for Cash: If a landlord accepts a cash payment for rent, the landlord must give the tenant a receipt for that payment within 15 days. The landlord shall, for a period of 3 years, maintain a record of all cash receipts for rent. (§ 5501 (e))
- Prepaid Rent: No statute
- Returned Check Fees: $40, plus court costs (§ 1301A)
- Tenant Allowed to Withhold Rent for Failure to Provide Essential Services (Water, Heat, etc.): Yes, tenant may withhold 2/3 of the rent per day, accruing during any period when hot water, heat, water or equivalent substitute housing is not supplied. (§ 5308 (b)(3)).
- Tenant Allowed to Repair and Deduct Rent: Yes, but conditions apply. Read §5307 for instructions on repair and deduct conditions.
- Landlord Allowed to Recover Court and Attorney Fees: No statute
- Landlord Must Make a Reasonable Attempt to Mitigate Damages to Lessee, including an Attempt to Rerent: Yes, but the tenant would be responsible for all rent and expenses until the time when the property is re-rented. (§ 5507 (d))
- Abandonment/Early Termination Fee: No statute, but similar guidance is found in § 5507.
Notices and Entry:
- Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Fixed End Date in Lease: 60 days notice prior to the expiration date (§ 5106 (c))
- Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Month-to-Month Lease: 60 days (§ 5106 (d))
- Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Week-to-Week Lease: No statute
- Unconditional and Immediate Lease Termination: When a tenant causes or threatens to cause irreparable harm to a person or the property, the landlord may terminate the lease immediately. (§ 5513 (b))
- Notice of Date/Time of Move-Out Inspection: No statute
- Notice of Termination of All Other Leases for Nonpayment: 5 days (§ 5502 (a))
- Termination for Lease Violation: 7 days (§ 5513 (a))
- Required Notice before Entry: 48 Hours (§ 5509 (b))
- Entry Allowed with Notice for Maintenance, Repairs, and Inspections (non-emergency): 48 Hours (§ 5509 (b))
- Entry Allowed with Notice for Showings: 48 Hours, but a tenant may waive this requirement, in writing, to make it easier for prospective tenants or purchasers to view the property. (§ 5509 (b))
- Emergency Entry Allowed without Notice: Allowed (§ 5509 (b))
- Entry Allowed During Tenant’s Extended Absence: Allowed (§ 5507 (b))
- Notice to Tenants for Pesticide Use: No statute
- Lockouts Allowed: No (§ 5313)
- Utility Shut-offs Allowed: No (§ 5313)
- Penalty for Self-Help Eviction: The tenant may also 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. (§ 5313)
Disclosures and Miscellaneous Notes:
- Name and Addresses: Landlord must disclose names and addresses of the property owners (§ 5105)
- Summary of Landlord-Tenant Laws: A summary of the Landlord-Tenant Code, as prepared by the Consumer Protection Unit of the Attorney General’s Office or its successor agency, shall be given to the new tenant at the beginning of the rental term. If the landlord fails to provide the summary, the tenant may plead ignorance of the law as a defense (§ 5118). Download the Summary.
- Copy of the Lease: Landlord must provide a written copy of the agreement, free of charge (§ 5105 (b))
- Domestic Violence Situations:
- Proof of Status: Landlord is entitled to verify claim of Domestic Violence status. (§ 5316)
- Protection from Termination: Landlord cannot terminate a tenancy, fail to renew a tenancy, increase rent or refuse to enter into a rental agreement with a victim of domestic violence and the tenant has sought assistance from any court, police, or service program. (§ 5316 (a)) Some exceptions apply which allow a landlord to terminate the lease or increase rent.
- Early Termination Rights: If a tenant gives a landlord at least 30 days’ written notice, and the notice so requests, the landlord shall release the tenant from the rental agreement. (§ 5314(6))
- Exceptions: Some exceptions apply which allow a landlord to terminate the lease or increase rent (§ 5316 (c)). A tenant who is otherwise delinquent in the payment of rent may not take advantage of the protection provided. (§ 5316 (d))
- Handling Abandoned Personal Property:
- After landlord lawfully takes possession of the premise, the landlord may immediately remove and store, at the tenant’s expense, any and all items left on the premises by the tenant. Seven days after the appeal period has expired, the property shall be deemed abandoned and may be disposed of by the landlord without further notice or liability. (§ 5507 (e))
- Writs of Possession must contain specific language found in § 5715.
- Landlord’s Duties: (§ 5305 (a))
- Compliance: Comply with the requirements of applicable building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety;
- Repairs: Make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition;
- Common Areas: Keep all common areas of the premises in a clean and safe condition;
- Maintenance: Maintain in good and safe working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and other facilities and appliances, including elevators, supplied or required to be supplied; and
- Utilities: Maintain all electrical, plumbing and other facilities supplied by the landlord in good working order.
- Tenant’s Duties: (§ 5503)
- Compliance: Comply with all obligations primarily imposed upon tenants by applicable provisions of building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety;
- Cleanliness: Keep the premises that tenant occupies and uses as clean and safe as the condition of the premises permit;
- Trash: Dispose of all garbage and other waste in a clean and safe manner;
- Plumbing: Keep all plumbing fixtures in the dwelling unit or used by the tenant as clean as their condition permits;
- Appliances: Use in a reasonable manner all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and other facilities and appliances including elevators in the premises;
- Lawful Activity: Not deliberately or negligently destroy, deface, damage, impair or remove any part of the premises or knowingly permit any person to do so; and
- Quiet Enjoyment: Conduct himself and require other persons on the premises with tenant consent to conduct themselves in a manner that will not disturb neighbors’ peaceful enjoyment of the premises.
- Retaliation: Landlord must not terminate, refuse to renew a lease, increase rent, or decrease services to a tenant who has filed an official complaint to a Government Authority, or has been involved in a tenant’s organization, or has exercised some legal right. Other actions are prohibited and retaliation is assumed by the courts if the landlord acts negatively within 90 days. (§ 5516)
- Lead Disclosure: 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.
- Delaware Small Claims Court
- Statute of Limitations
- Delaware Court System
- Delaware Attorney General
- Delaware State Bar Association
- Legal Aid:
- Business License Required: No statewide statute, but local cities and counties may have regulations and requirements. Check with your local governing authority.
- Delaware Department of Insurance
- Delaware Consumer Guide to Homeowner Insurance (pdf)
- Delaware Fraud and Consumer Protection Division
- Delaware Housing Commission
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Delaware
- Delaware Real Estate Commission
- REALTORS® Associations
- Landlord Associations