CHAPTER 550

AN ACT TO AMEND CHAPTER 51, TITLE 25, DELAWARE CODE, RELATING TO THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS OP LEASES.

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Delaware:

Section 1. Chapter 51, Title 25, Delaware Code, is amended by adding thereto a new section, Section 5111, to read as follows:

§ 5111. Invalidity of certain dwelling unit lease terms and conditions

No lessor of a unit or units of any building having more than one unit leased for use as a dwelling place shall include in the lease of said unit or units any of the following terms or conditions, or their equivalent, nor shall any of the following terms or conditions be enforceable against the lessee:

1. A waiver of any cause of action against, or identification from the lessor by lessee for any injury or harm caused to the lessee, his family, his guests or his property, or the property of his family or his guests, resulting from any negligence of the lessor, his agents or assigns, in the construction of the leased dwelling unit, or in the construction or maintenance of the common areas which the lessee is entitled to use under the lease;

2. Any covenant which does not state with reasonable specificity the conduct by lessee which would result in its breach; except that covenants referring to "illegal" conduct, or conduct "likely to confer substantial risk of physical harm" to other tenants or occupants of the premises shall not be prohibited under this paragraph;

3. Any provision which denies to the lessee the right to treat a continuing violation substantial in nature by lessor of any covenant or duty protecting the health, welfare or safety of the tenants or occupants, which is set forth in the lease, or which otherwise binds the lessor as a matter of law, as a constructive or actual eviction, which would otherwise permit lessee to terminate the lease, and to immediately cease payments thereunder, provided that the lessor fails to correct the condition giving rise to the violation or fails to cease the violation within a reasonable time after written notice is given by lessee by registered mail;

4. Any provision which in any way revokes or otherwise alters the processes of distraint and ejectment as are now or hereafter shall be set forth in this Title, or which revokes or otherwise alters any defenses to, appeals from, or counterclaims arising from, said actions which lessee would otherwise have as a matter of law;

5. (a) Any provision which absolves the lessor from the duty to provide the lessee with heat, electricity and hot water. The cost of use of these services shall be borne by the lessor or lessee as the lease shall provide;

(b) Any provision which absolves the lessor from the duty to provide the lessee with leased premises maintained by the lessor in a state of good repair, and common and access areas maintained by the lessor in a state of good repair and free from rodents, vermin, insects and similar health hazards;

6. Any provision which prohibits the lessee from terminating the lease upon 30 days' notice, whenever a change in the location of the lessee's employment requires a change in the location of his residence. The burden of proof that the location of his employment has changed shall be on the lessee. The 30 day period shall begin on the first day of the month following the date notice is actually given;

7. Any provision which limits in any way the right of the lessee to take legal action of any kind against the lessor.

Section 2. Chapter 51, Title 25, Delaware Code, is amended by adding thereto a new section, Section 5112, to read as follows:

§ 5112. Residential lease tenant deposits

(a) If a residential lease in any building having more than one unit leased for use as a dwelling place shall require the lessee to provide any deposit to the lessor, to be held for the term of the lease or any part thereof, said deposit shall be considered a security deposit.

(b) Security deposits shall be placed in a separate escrow bank account by the lessor and shall not be used in the operation of any business by the lessor. Such deposits shall earn interest during the term of the lease at the same rate as paid by the bank on similar accounts. The interest so earned shall be paid to the lessee upon termination of the lease, provided that the lessee has paid all rent due in full for the term of the lease.

Failure of the lessee to pay all rent due, or premature termination of the lease on the part of the lessee, shall entitle the lessor to apply the security deposit, and interest accrued thereupon, to the amount of the unpaid rent due under the lease. Any portion of the deposit or interest remaining shall be returned to the lessee.

(c) The purpose of the security deposit shall be to reimburse the lessor for actual damages caused to the leased premises by the lessee.

(d) Within fifteen days of the termination or expiration of any lease the lessor shall provide the lessee with an itemized list of damages to the premises and the estimated cost of repair of each. With the list the lessor shall tender payment for the difference between the security deposit plus accrued interest, and the cost of repair of damages to the premises. Acceptance of this tender by the lessee shall constitute agreement on the damages as specified by the lessor.

(e) Failure by the lessor to provide a list of damages and tender the remainder of the lessee's deposit within fifteen days shall constitute agreement by the lessor that no damages are due and he shall immediately remit to the lessee the full amount of the security deposit plus accrued interest. Failure to do so within 30 days from the expiration or termination of the lease shall entitle the lessee to double the amount of the security deposit plus accrued interest.

() All communications required in this section shall be directed to the lessor at the address specified in the lease and to the lessee at an address provided in writing by the lessee at or prior to the termination of the lease. Failure to provide such address shall relieve the lessor of his responsibilities under this section.

(g) Any provision in any lease attempting to waive or nullify the effect of this section shall be void and unenforceable.

Section 3. The provisions of this Act shall apply only to those leases signed after the effective date hereof.

Approved June 12, 1970.