TITLE 31

Welfare

Housing and Slum Clearance

CHAPTER 41. DELAWARE STATE HOUSING CODE

Subchapter I. Applicability and Adoption


This chapter shall be known as the Delaware State Housing Code which establishes minimum property maintenance standards for structures covered by this chapter and is herein sometimes referred to as the "State Housing Code" or "Code" and shall apply to and include the entire State except as may be exempted by this chapter.

65 Del. Laws, c. 153, § 1.;

This chapter is intended to protect the public safety, health and welfare in existing residential structures and on existing residential premises, as hereinafter provided by:

(1) Establishing minimum maintenance standards for existing residential structures and premises for basic equipment and facilities for light, ventilation, heat and sanitation; for safety from fire; for space; and for safe and sanitary maintenance of existing structures and premises;

(2) Fixing the responsibilities of owners, operators and occupants of all structures; and

(3) Providing for administration, enforcement and penalties.

65 Del. Laws, c. 153, § 1.;

The State Housing Code shall apply to existing residential structures used for human habitation. The provisions are designed to eliminate or prevent substandard conditions with respect to structures, protect against fire hazards, provide for adequate space for light and air, provide for proper heating and ventilating and eliminate unsanitary conditions and overcrowding. Every portion of a building or premises used or intended to be used for residential purposes shall comply with this chapter, except hotels and motels serving transient guests only, migratory labor housing, rest homes, convalescent homes, nursing homes, recreational campers and civil defense shelters. For the purpose of this chapter, regulations by the State Department of Health and Social Services for Migratory Labor Camps will apply to migrant housing.

65 Del. Laws, c. 153, § 1.;

The entire chapter shall be liberally interpreted so as to minimize displacement of persons whose dwelling units may deviate from this chapter's specifications but do not pose an imminent threat to the health, safety and general welfare of the occupants and other persons. Additionally, this chapter is to be liberally interpreted so as to minimize hardships to persons that inhabit or own dwelling units which deviate from this chapter's specifications but do not pose an imminent threat to the health, safety and general welfare of the occupants and other persons.

65 Del. Laws, c. 153, § 1.;

(a) This chapter does not replace or modify requirements otherwise established for the construction, repair, alteration or use of buildings and facilities related thereto.

(b) Nothing in this chapter shall be deemed to abolish or impair existing rights or remedies of a county or municipality or its officers or agencies relating to the removal or demolition of any buildings which are deemed to be unsafe or unsanitary.

(c) The Delaware State Housing Code shall not apply to any existing single family owner-occupied residential structure. The provisions shall become and remain applicable upon the rental or sale of such residential structure after July 17, 1990. The Delaware State Housing Code shall not apply to any existing resort residential structure with an occupancy limited to the months of May through September inclusively.

(d) When there are practical difficulties involved in carrying out the provisions of this Code, such that the literal application of the requirements of the Code would cause undue hardship or the displacement of low income occupants with no affordable housing alternatives, the code official is permitted to vary or modify such provision or provisions upon written application of the owner or the owner's representative; provided, that the spirit and intent of the law shall be observed and public welfare and safety be assured.

(e) The State Housing Code shall not be administered in any community which has enacted its own code which contains minimum standards for the promotion and protection of the safety and health of the public which are equal to or exceed the standards established by subchapter II of this chapter and administration and enforcement procedures which are substantially equivalent to those set forth in subchapter III of this chapter, as determined by the Housing Director. At the request of any community which has adopted a housing code, the Housing Director shall provide written notice to the community of its determination, stating the reasons therefore. Provided, however, that if such community thereafter seeks to amend, alter or otherwise change its housing code, it shall provide the Housing Director with a copy of such proposed change. In such a case, the Housing Director shall notify such community in writing within 60 days of receipt of such proposed change of its determination whether such proposed change meets the standards set forth in this subsection, and, in such case, the State Housing Code shall not be administered in such community, notwithstanding such amendment or change.

65 Del. Laws, c. 153, § 1; 67 Del. Laws, c. 386, §§ 1-3.;

(a) Words used in the present tense include the future; the singular includes the plural and the plural includes the singular. Unless otherwise expressly stated, where terms are not defined under this chapter, they shall have ascribed to them their ordinarily accepted meanings or such as the context herein may imply. Whenever the words "multi-family dwelling," "residence building," "dwelling unit," "mobile home" or "premises" are used in this chapter, they shall be construed as though they were followed by the words, "or any part thereof."

(b) The following terms are defined as listed below:

(1) Approved. — Approved, as applied to a material, device or method of construction, shall mean approved by the code official under this chapter or approved by other authority designated by law to give approval in the matter in question.

(2) Basement. — That portion of a building which is partly below and partly above grade, and having at least one half its height above grade (see "cellar").

(3) Cellar. — That portion of a building which is partly or completely below grade, and having at least one half its height below grade (see "basement").

(4) Central heating. — The heating system permanently installed and adjusted so as to provide the distribution of heat to all habitable rooms, bathrooms and water closet compartments from a source outside of these rooms.

(5) Code official. — The official who is charged with the administration and enforcement of this chapter, or any duly authorized representative. The Housing Director, or any duly authorized representative thereof, shall be the code official for the State.

(6) Community. — Any municipality or county in the State.

(7) Condemn. — To adjudge unfit for residential use or human occupancy.

(8) Condemnation. — The act of judicially condemning.

(9) Dwelling.

a. One-family dwelling. — A building containing 1 dwelling unit with not more than 5 lodgers or boarders.

b. Two-family dwelling. — A building containing 2 dwelling units with not more than 5 lodgers or boarders per family.

c. Multi-family apartment house. — A building or portion thereof containing more than 2 dwelling units and not classified as a 1 or 2 family dwelling.

d. Boarding house, lodging house and tourist house. — A building arranged or used for lodging, with or without meals, for compensation, by more than 5 and not more than 20 individuals.

e. Dormitory. — A space in a building where group sleeping accommodations are provided in 1 room, or in a series of closely associated rooms for persons not members of the same family group.

f. Hotel. — Any building containing 6 or more guest rooms intended or designed to be used, or which are used, rented or hired out to be occupied, or which are occupied for sleeping purposes by guests.

g. Mobile home. — A 1-family dwelling designed for transportation after fabrication on streets and highways on its own wheels or supported by other vehicles or trailers but which is not self-propelled, and arriving at the site where it is to be occupied complete and ready for occupancy, except for minor and incidental unpacking and assembly operations, supported on jacks or other foundations and connected to utilities and the like.

(10) Dwelling unit. — A single unit providing complete, independent living facilities for 1 or more persons, including a mobile home, including permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking and sanitation.

(11) Enforcement officer. — The official designated herein or otherwise charged with the responsibilities of administering this chapter, or the official's authorized representative.

(12) Exterior property areas. — The open space on the premises and on adjoining property under the control of owners or operators of such premises.

(13) Extermination. — The control and elimination of insects, rats or other pests by eliminating their harborage places; by removing or making inaccessible materials that may serve as their food; by poison spraying, fumigating, trapping or by any other approved pest elimination methods.

(14) Family. — An individual or married couple and the children thereof with not more than 2 other persons, living together as a single housekeeping unit in a dwelling unit.

(15) Garbage. — The animal and vegetable waste resulting from the handling, preparation, cooking and consumption of food.

(16) Habitable space. — Space in a structure for living, sleeping, eating or cooking. Bathrooms, toilet compartments, closets, halls, storage or utility space, and similar areas are not considered habitable space.

(17) Hotel. — See "dwellings."

(18) Housing Director. — The Director of the Delaware State Housing Authority.

(19) Infestation. — The presence, within or contiguous to a structure or premises, of insects, rats, vermin or other pests.

(20) Junk vehicle. — Any vehicle which is without a currently valid license plate or plates and is in either a rusted, wrecked, discharged, dismantled, partly dismantled, inoperative or abandoned condition. A junk vehicle shall be classified as to its condition in 1 of the 2 following categories:

a. Restorable. — A junk vehicle that is in a condition whereby repairs to same could be made to place it in operating condition without exceeding the estimated value when repaired.

b. Wreck. — A junk vehicle in such condition that it is economically unsound to restore same to operating condition considering the repairs to be made, age of the vehicle, market value of the vehicle if it were restored or in such condition that it warrants such classification.

(21) Let for occupancy or let. — To permit possession or occupancy of a dwelling, dwelling unit, rooming unit, building or structure by a person who shall be legal owner or not be the legal owner of record thereof, pursuant to a written or unwritten lease, agreement or license, or pursuant to a recorded or unrecorded agreement of contract for the sale of land.

(22) Maintenance. — Conformance of a building and its facilities to the code under which the building was constructed.

(23) Motel. — A hotel as defined in this chapter.

(24) Multi-family (multiple) dwellings. — See "dwellings."

(25) Occupant. — Any person over 1 year of age (including owner or operator) living and sleeping in a dwelling unit or having actual possession of said dwelling or rooming unit.

(26) Openable area. — That part of a window or door which is available for unobstructed ventilation and which opens directly to the outdoors.

(27) Operator. — Any person who has charge, care or control of a structure or premises which are let or offered for occupancy.

(28) Overcrowded. — A dwelling shall be overcrowded when its occupancy exceeds the maximum number of persons permitted in subsections (k), (l) and (q) of § 4115 of this title.

(29) Owner. — Any person, firm or corporation having a legal or equitable interest in the premises or any agent thereof.

(30) Person. — Any individual, corporation or partnership.

(31) Plumbing. — The labor, materials and fixtures used in the installation, maintenance, extension and alteration of all piping, fixtures, appliances and appurtenances.

(32) Plumbing fixture. — A receptacle or device which is either permanently or temporarily connected to the water distribution system of the premises and demands a supply of water therefrom; or discharges used water, liquid-borne waste materials, or sewage either directly or indirectly to the drainage system of the premises; or which requires both a water supply connection and a discharge to the drainage system of the premises.

(33) Premises. — A lot, plot or parcel of land including the buildings or structures thereon.

(34) Public nuisance. — Includes the following:

a. The physical condition, or use of any premises regarded as a public nuisance at common law; or

b. Any physical condition, use or occupancy of any premises or its appurtenances considered an attractive nuisance to children, including, but not limited to, abandoned wells, shafts, basements, excavations and unsafe fences or structures; or

c. Any premises designated as having unsanitary sewerage or plumbing facilities; or

d. Any premises designated as unsafe for human habitation or use; or

e. Any premises which are manifestly capable of being a fire hazard, or are manifestly unsafe or unsecure so as to endanger life, limb or property; or

f. Any premises from which the plumbing, heating or other facilities required by this chapter have been removed, or from which utilities such as water, sewer, gas and electricity have been disconnected, destroyed, removed or rendered ineffective, or the required precautions against trespassers have not been provided; or

g. Any premises which are unsanitary, or which are littered with rubbish or garbage, or which have an uncontrolled growth of weeds; or

h. Any structure or building that is in an advanced state of dilapidation, deterioration or decay; of faulty construction; overcrowded; open, vacant or abandoned; damaged by fire to the extent as not to provide adequate shelter; in danger of collapse or structural failure; and is dangerous to anyone on or near the premises.

(35) Renovation. — Work on a building and its facilities to make it conform to present day minimum standards of sanitation, fire and life safety.

(36) Residence building. — A building in which sleeping accommodations, toilet, bathing and cooking facilities as a unit are provided.

(37) Rooming house. — Any residence building, or any part thereof, containing 1 or more rooming units, in which space is let by the owner or operator to more than 5 persons who are not members of the family (see "dwellings": "boarding house").

(38) Rooming unit. — Any room or group of rooms forming a single habitable unit used or intended to be used for living and sleeping, but not for cooking or eating purposes.

(39) Rubbish. — Combustible and noncombustible waste materials, except garbage, and the term shall include the residue from the burning of wood, coal, coke and other combustible materials, paper, rags, cartons, boxes, wood, excelsior, rubber, leather, tree branches, yard trimmings, tin cans, metals, mineral matter, glass, crockery and dust and other similar materials.

(40) Structure. — That which is built or constructed, including without limitation because of enumeration, buildings for any occupancy or use whatsoever, fences, signs, billboards, fire escapes, chute escapes, railings, water tanks, towers, open grade steps, sidewalks or stairways, tents or anything erected and framed to component parts which is fastened, anchored or rests on a permanent foundation or on the ground.

(41) Supplied. — Installed, furnished or provided by the owner or operator.

(42) Ventilation. — The process of supplying and removing air by natural or mechanical means to or from any space.

a. Mechanical. — Ventilation by power-driven devices.

b. Natural. — Ventilation by opening to outer air through windows, skylights, doors, louvers or stacks without wind-driven devices.

(43) Workmanlike. — Whenever the words "workmanlike state of maintenance and repair" are used in this chapter, they shall mean that such maintenance and repair shall be made in a reasonably skillful manner.

(44) Yard. — An open unoccupied space on the same lot with a building extending along the entire length of street, or rear or interior lot line.

65 Del. Laws, c. 153, § 1; 67 Del. Laws, c. 386, §§ 4-6; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

Any community in Delaware may adopt the State Housing Code as its own municipal or county housing code by reference to this title and chapter of the Delaware Code.

65 Del. Laws, c. 153, § 1.;

It shall be the duty and responsibility of each community to enforce the State Housing Code throughout the confines of that municipality or county.

65 Del. Laws, c. 153, § 1.;

In the event that after 3 years subsequent to the adoption of the State Housing Code by the General Assembly a community has not undertaken to enforce this chapter, the Housing Director, acting as the code official, may begin enforcement within that community, subject to this chapter. Any community may contract with another community to act on its behalf in the enforcement of this chapter.

65 Del. Laws, c. 153, § 1; 67 Del. Laws, c. 386, § 7.;

Inspection of premises and the issuing of orders in connection therewith under this chapter shall be the exclusive responsibility of the code official. When, in the opinion of the code official, it is necessary or desirable to have inspections of any conditions by any other community or state agency, the code official shall arrange for this to be done in such a manner that the owners or occupants of the dwelling shall not be subjected to visits by numerous inspectors nor to multiple or conflicting orders. No order for correction of any violation under this section, when coordination of enforcement is required, shall be issued without the approval of the code official and, before issuing any such order, the code official shall obtain the concurrence of any other department or agency having jurisdiction thereover.

65 Del. Laws, c. 153, § 1.;