TITLE 25

Property

Residential Landlord-Tenant Code

CHAPTER 51. GENERAL PROVISIONS

Subchapter I. Rights, Obligations and Procedures, Generally


(a) This Code shall regulate and determine all legal rights, remedies and obligations of all parties and beneficiaries of any rental agreement of a rental unit within this State, wherever executed. Any rental agreement, whether written or oral, shall be unenforceable insofar as the agreement or any provision thereof conflicts with any provision of this Code, and is not expressly authorized herein. The unenforceability shall not affect other provisions of the agreement which can be given effect without the void provision.

(b) Any rental agreement for a commercial rental unit is excluded from this Code. All legal rights, remedies and obligations under any agreement for the rental of any commercial rental unit shall be governed by general contract principles; and only Chapter 57 of Title 25 and Part IV of Title 25 shall have any application to commercial rental agreements.

(c) This Code shall apply to any relationship between parties arising by law under a conditional sales agreement which has been converted to a landlord/tenant agreement by operation of § 314(d)(3) of this title, but shall not apply to any other conditional sales agreement.

70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1; 76 Del. Laws, c. 311, § 4.;

The following arrangements are not intended to be governed by this Code, unless created solely to avoid such application:

(1) Residence at an institution, whether public or private, where such residence is merely incidental to detention or to the provision of medical, geriatric, educational, counseling, religious or similar services, including (but not limited to) prisons, student housing provided by a college or school, old-age homes, nursing homes, homes for unwed mothers, monasteries, nunneries and hospitals.

(2) Residence by a member of a fraternal organization in a structure operated for the benefit of the organization.

(3) Residence in a hotel, motel, cubicle hotel or other similar lodgings.

(4) Nonrenewable rental agreements of 120 days or less for any calendar year for a dwelling located within the boundaries of Broadkill Hundred, Lewes-Rehoboth Hundred, Indian River Hundred and Baltimore Hundred.

(5) A rental agreement for ground upon which improvements were constructed or installed by the tenant and used as a dwelling, where the tenant retains ownership or title thereto, or obtains title to existing improvement on the property.

70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1.;

Any person, whether or not a citizen or resident of this State, who owns, holds an ownership or beneficial interest in, uses, manages or possesses real estate situated in this State submits himself, herself or itself or such person's personal representative to the jurisdiction of the courts of this State as to any action or proceeding for the enforcement of an obligation arising under this Code.

70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

Every duty under this Code, and every act which must be performed as a condition precedent to the exercise of a right or remedy under this Code, imposes an obligation of good faith in its performance or enforcement.

70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1.;

(a) On each written rental agreement, the landlord shall prominently disclose:

(1) The names and usual business addresses of all persons who are owners of the rental unit or the property of which the rental unit is a part, or the names and business addresses of their appointed resident agents; and/or

(2) The names and usual business addresses of any person who would be deemed a landlord of the unit pursuant to § 5141 of this title.

(b) Where there is a written rental agreement, the landlord shall provide a copy of such written rental agreement to the tenant, free of charge. In the case of an oral agreement, the landlord shall, on demand, furnish the tenant with a written statement containing the information required by subsection (a) of this section.

(c) Any owner or resident agent not dealing with the tenant as a landlord shall be responsible for compliance with this section by the landlord and may not take advantage of any failure to serve process upon such owner or resident agent in any proceeding arising under this Code where such failure is due to the owner or resident agent's failure to comply with this section.

70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1; 79 Del. Laws, c. 47, § 20.;

(a) No rental agreement, unless in writing, shall be effective for a longer term than 1 year.

(b) Where no term is expressly provided, a rental agreement for premises shall be deemed and construed to be for a month-to-month term.

(c) The landlord may terminate any rental agreement, other than month-to-month agreements, by giving a minimum of 60 days' written notice to the tenant prior to the expiration of the term of the rental agreement. The notice shall indicate that the agreement shall terminate upon its expiration date. A tenant may terminate a rental agreement by giving a minimum of 60 days' written notice prior to the expiration of the term of the rental agreement that the agreement shall terminate upon its expiration date.

(d) Where the term of the rental agreement is month-to-month, the landlord or tenant may terminate the rental agreement by giving the other party a minimum of 60 days' written notice, which 60-day period shall begin on the first day of the month following the day of actual notice.

(e) With regard to a tenant occupying a federally-subsidized housing unit, in the event of any conflict between the terms of this Code and the terms of any federal law, regulations or guidelines, the terms of the federal law, regulations or guidelines shall control.

70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1.;

(a) 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 prior to the expiration of the rental agreement that the agreement shall be renewed subject to amended or modified provisions, including, but not limited to, amended provisions relating to the length of term or the amount of security deposit or rent. Such notice shall specify the modified or amended provisions, the amount of any rent or security deposit and the date on which any modifications or amendments shall take effect.

(b) After receipt of such notice from the landlord, unless the tenant notifies the landlord of the tenant's intention to terminate the existing rental agreement a minimum of 45 days prior to the last day of the term, the provisions of the amended or modified rental agreement shall be deemed to have been accepted and agreed to by the tenant, and the terms of the lease, as amended, shall take full force and effect.

(c) If the tenant rejects the modified terms or provisions set forth in a notice of renewal given under this section, then the rejected notice of renewal shall be considered an effective termination notice.

(d) The terms of subsections (a) through (c) of this section shall not be applicable where the tenant's rent and security deposit are a function of the tenant's income in accordance with any form of regulations or guidelines of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); in the event that they are a function of income, the regulations and guidelines established by HUD with regard to the determination and future adjustments of a tenant's rent and security deposit shall govern. With regard to a tenant's occupying HUD-subsidized units, in the event of any conflict between the terms of this Code and the terms of any HUD regulation or guideline, the terms of a HUD regulation or guideline shall control.

70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1.;

(a) Where a rental agreement, other than for farm unit, is for 1 or more years, and 60 days or upward before the end of the term either the landlord does not give notice in writing to the tenant of landlord's intention to terminate the rental agreement and the tenant does not give 45 days' notice to the landlord of tenant's intention to terminate the rental agreement, the term shall be month-to-month, and all other terms of the rental agreement shall continue in full force and effect.

(b) The provisions of § 5107(a) through (c) of this title shall control if a notice of renewal with modifications has been sent.

(c) With regard to a tenant occupying a federally-subsidized housing unit, in the event of any conflict between the terms of this Code and the terms of any federal law, regulations or guidelines, the terms of the federal law, regulations or guidelines shall control.

70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1.;

(a) Material promises, agreements, covenants or undertakings of any kind to be performed by either party to a rental agreement shall be interpreted as mutual and dependent conditions to the performance of material promises, agreements, covenants and undertakings by the other party.

(b) A party undertaking to remedy a breach by the other party in accordance with this Code shall be deemed to have complied with the terms of this Code if their noncompliance with the exact instructions of this Code is nonmaterial and nonprejudicial to the other party.

70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1.;

(a) If the landlord does not sign a written rental agreement which has been signed and tendered to the landlord by the tenant, acceptance of rent without reservation by the landlord shall give to the rental agreement the same effect as if it had been signed by the landlord.

(b) If the tenant does not sign a written rental agreement which has been signed and tendered to the tenant by the landlord, acceptance of possession and payment of rent by the tenant, without reservation, shall give to the rental agreement the same effect as if it had been signed by the tenant.

(c) Where a rental agreement which has been given effect by the operation of this section provides by its terms for a term longer than 1 year, it shall operate to create only a 1-year term.

70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1.;

No provision in a rental agreement providing for the recovery of attorneys' fees by either party in any suit, action or proceeding arising from the tenancy shall be enforceable.

70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1.;

In computing any period of time prescribed or allowed by order of the Court or by any applicable statute, the day of the act, event or default from which the designated period of time begins to run shall not be included unless specifically included by statute, order or rule. The last day of the period so computed shall be included, unless it is a Saturday, Sunday or a legal holiday, in which event the period runs until the end of the next day which is not a Saturday, Sunday or a legal holiday. When the period of time prescribed or allowed is less than 7 days, intermediate Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays shall be excluded from the computation.

70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1.;

(a) Any notice or service of process required by this Code shall be served either personally upon the tenant or landlord or upon the tenant by leaving a copy thereof at the person's rental unit or usual place of abode with an adult person residing therein; and upon the landlord by leaving a copy thereof at the landlord's address as set forth in the lease or as otherwise provided by landlord with an adult person residing therein, or with an agent or other person in the employ of the landlord whose responsibility it is to accept such notice. If the landlord is an artificial entity, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 57, service of the notice or process may be made by leaving a copy thereof at its office or place of business as set forth in the lease with an agent authorized by appointment or by law to receive service of process.

(b) In lieu of personal service or service by copy of the notice or process required by this Code, a copy of such notice or process may be sent by registered or certified mail or first-class mail as evidenced by a certificate of mailing postage-prepaid, addressed to the tenant at the leased premises, or to the landlord at the landlord's business address as set forth in the lease or as otherwise provided by landlord, or if the landlord is an artificial entity, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 57, at its office or place of business. The return receipt of the notice, whether signed, refused or unclaimed, sent by registered or certified mail, or the certificate of mailing if sent by first-class mail, shall be held and considered to be prima facie evidence of the service of the notice or process.

(c) In the alternative, service of notice or process may also be obtained by 1 of the following 2 alternatives:

(1) Posting of the notice on the rental unit, when combined with a return receipt or certificate of mailing; or

(2) Personal service by a special process-server appointed by the Court.

70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1.;

A person has notice of a fact if:

(1) The person has actual knowledge of it;

(2) The person has received a notice pursuant to the provisions of this Code; or

(3) From all the facts and circumstances known at the time in question, such person has reason to know that it exists.

70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1.;

Where the landlord alleges and by substantial evidence demonstrates to the Court that a tenant has caused substantial or irreparable harm to landlord's person or property, or where the tenant alleges and by substantial evidence demonstrates to the Court that the landlord has caused substantial or irreparable harm to the tenant's person or property, the Justice of the Peace Court shall issue a forthwith summons to expedite the Court's consideration of the allegations.

70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1.;

(a) No person, being an owner or agent of any real estate, house, apartment or other premises, shall refuse or decline to rent, subrent, sublease, assign or cancel any existing rental agreement to or of any tenant or any person by reason of race, creed, religion, marital status, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, age or occupation or because the tenant or person has a child or children in the family.

(b) No person shall demand or receive a greater sum as rent for the use and occupancy of any premises because the person renting or desiring to rent the premises is of a particular race, creed, religion, marital status, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, age or occupation or has a child or children in the family.

(c) In the event of discrimination under this section, the tenant may recover damages sustained as a result of the landlord's action, including, but not limited to, reasonable expenditures necessary to obtain adequate substitute housing.

(d) Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this section relating to age discrimination, and consistent with federal and state fair housing acts, a landlord may make rental units available exclusively for rental by senior citizens. A senior citizen rental unit shall be available for rent solely to senior citizens, without regard to race, creed, religion, marital status, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or occupation of the senior citizen and without regard to whether or not the senior citizen has a dependent child or children in the residence.

70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1; 77 Del. Laws, c. 90, § 21; 79 Del. Laws, c. 47, § 21.;

(a) For any violation of the rental agreement or this Code, or both, by either party, the injured party shall have a right to maintain a cause of action in any court of competent civil jurisdiction.

(b) In satisfaction of any judgment obtained by the landlord for rental arrearage or unlawful destruction of property, the wages of the judgment debtor may be attached in the manner provided by law.

70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1.;

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.

70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 1.;

(a) The right of the landlord of distress for rent is hereby abolished, except as otherwise provided herein.

(b) Unless perfected before the effective date of this Code, no lien on behalf of the landlord in the personal property and possessions of the tenant shall be enforceable, except as otherwise provided herein.

25 Del. C. 1953, § 6103; 58 Del. Laws, c. 472, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 5.;

A provision of a written rental agreement authorizing a person other than the tenant to confess judgment against the tenant is void and unenforceable.

25 Del. C. 1953, § 6104; 58 Del. Laws, c. 472, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 513, § 6.;

In addition to any other equitable authority granted to, or inherent in the powers of, the Justice of the Peace Court to hear and properly dispose of actions brought under Chapters 51 through 57, 63 and 70 of this title, that Court shall have the equitable jurisdiction, concurrent with the Court of Chancery, to fully determine the rights of all parties at the time of hearing any matter brought pursuant to the conversion of a conditional sales agreement to a landlord/tenant agreement by operation of § 314(d)(3) of this title. Such authority shall include, but not be limited to, an accounting for all payments made under the conditional sales agreement prior to the conversion of the contract to a landlord/tenant agreement.

76 Del. Laws, c. 311, § 5.;