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Delaware Property Management Laws

Delaware has a variety of statutes specific to the state and the regulations governing residential property. Property management laws can impact how landlords advertise for tenants, what fees to charge and when to terminate a lease. Every state has different laws, which can make renting property complex, particularly for out-of-state owners. Local property management companies may have a better understanding of the regulations governing rentals and how to best monetize a residential dwelling.

This guide offers a look at some of the property management laws that apply in Delaware. It contains information specific to drawing up a lease, what expenses might be the responsibility of the landlord and direct links to the appropriate statutes. It also has resources that may help you answer questions on how to handle specific situations.

Key Points

  • 1 Fair housing laws in Delaware include additional protected classes such as employment and gender identity.
  • 2 A landlord may not charge more than a single month’s rent as a security deposit, though an additional pet deposit may be charged for those who own a pet. Service dogs are excluded from pet deposits.
  • 3 A lease must disclose the name of the property owner and the management company, along with contact information for the entity acting as the landlord for the purposes of the rental agreement.
  • 4 Many clauses govern early termination, and tenants may find it relatively easy to end a lease before the end of the term. Landlords must provide 60 days’ notice before terminating the agreement.

Note: This guide is intended to be used as an educational resource. The contents within do not constitute legal advice. To obtain information regarding property management laws in your state, consult a local attorney. This guide is based only on property management laws at the state level. Local county and city laws may exist that are not discussed in this guide. Consult a local attorney to obtain information that pertains to your specific location and situation.

Property Management Laws Overview in Delaware

Code Description
None Licensing Laws
§5514 Rental Application Laws
§5514 Security Deposit Laws
§5106 Lease and Termination Laws
§5501 Rent and Late Fee Laws
§5105 Disclosure Laws
§5301 Landlord Responsibility Laws
§5305 Property Maintenance and Repair Laws

Rental Application Laws

Are landlords/property managers permitted to collect application fees from potential tenants?

Application fees are allowed in Delaware, provided the fees are consistent with the actual costs of processing an application and paying for services such as a credit or background check. Delaware statute §5514 (d) limits application fees to a maximum of $50 or no more than 10% of the monthly rent, whichever is greater.

What is the law when it comes to requesting criminal records or credit checks from prospective tenants?

There are no state laws that limit a landlord’s ability to perform a credit or background check in Delaware, but federal laws apply. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires a landlord to get specific written consent before processing a credit or background check. 

Do discrimination laws apply to tenant screening?

Delaware law prohibits discrimination based on race, creed, religion, marital status, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, age, source of income, occupation or whether or not a child will be in residence. (§5116)

Security Deposit Laws

Are additional move-in fees allowed?

Delaware statute §5310 specifically prohibits the collection of additional move-in fees. Landlords and property managers may collect application fees, security deposits (or surety bonds), pet deposits or other similar fees. All other “fees” may not be charged to a prospective tenant. 

Is there a limit on the security deposit amount that can be charged?

Security deposit amounts are limited to one month’s rent on a lease that is at least one year in length according to statute §5514. There is no specific limit on month-to-month leases, but landlords must return any amounts over the cost of one month’s rent if a tenant stays for a year or more, even if the lease term is undefined. Furnished apartments are excluded from the security deposit limits. 

Does the landlord have to hold the security deposit in a specific way during occupancy?

A landlord or property management company must deposit funds into a federally insured bank account that accepts deposits for the state according to §5514 (b). This escrow account must be labeled a security deposit account, and no funds can be used for any expenses related to the property owner’s business operations. 

How long does the landlord have to return the security deposit after a move out?

At the termination of the lease, a landlord has 20 days in which to refund the full amount of the security deposit, minus any allowed damages. If the landlord is deducting repair costs, an itemized list must accompany the remainder of the security deposit. Tenants have 10 days from the receipt of payment to dispute any charges. (§5514 e-f)

What are the reasons a landlord can withhold part or all of the security deposit?

After the property has been vacated, a landlord may withhold all or part of the security deposit to cover unpaid rent, expenses incurred during the re-rent of a property after an early termination or to cover excess damage to the property beyond normal wear and tear. Under Delaware law, normal wear and tear is damage that cannot be remedied by painting and cleaning the premises. (§5514 c)

What is the penalty if the landlord doesn’t return the security deposit?

If a landlord fails to return the security deposit within 20 days of lease termination, tenants are entitled to double the amount withheld. If a landlord fails to deposit the security deposit in an appropriate bank account or fails to disclose the location of that account within 20 days of a written request from the tenant, the landlord forfeits the security deposit. The landlord then has 20 days from the forfeiture to return the money to the tenant. Failure to do so entitles the tenant to double the amount. (§5514 g)

Are there any exceptions in which the tenant may forfeit the deposit?

The tenant must provide a forwarding address at the time of termination. If the tenant fails to provide a forwarding address, the landlord must hold the funds for one year after lease termination. (§5514 h)

Laws About Leases and Lease Termination

What types of lease terms are allowed?

Delaware landlords can offer month-to-month or one-year leases, though all leases default to month-to-month when no term is specified. A lease that lasts for one year or more must be in writing, and a copy is due to the tenant at no cost, upon request. (§5106)

What happens if a tenant violates a lease?

Anytime after the rent is due, even before any late fees may be assessed, landlords may send tenants a notice of termination if payment is not made in full within five days or delivery of the notice. If a tenant fails to pay within five days, the landlord may bring a suit of summary possession to regain the right of access and evict the tenant. (§5502)

How much notice is required for a month-to-month lease termination?

Landlords and tenants are required to provide a notice of intent to terminate a lease at least 60 days in advance of the expiration of the lease. For a month-to-month lease, the 60 days begins on the first day of the month following the delivery of the notice. (§5106)

When can a tenant terminate a term lease without penalty?

There are several situations that may allow a tenant to terminate their lease early and with no penalty, including:

  • If the tenant changes jobs and the new location is more than 30 miles away from their residence
  • Illness or death of a tenant or a tenant’s immediate family member
  • When accepted into a senior housing facility or a group living facility, including subsidized housing
  • When accepted into any subsidized housing, private or public
  • Tenant joins the military on active duty after the start of the lease
  • A tenant who is a victim of domestic abuse or other crimes

How much notice do service members have to supply before terminating the lease?

As with all early terminations, active duty military members must provide 30 days’ notice of termination. (§5314)

Are there special lease termination rules for victims of domestic violence?

Domestic violence victims may terminate a lease with 30 days’ written notice without penalty. 

How much notice does a landlord have to give before making changes to the property that result in termination of the lease?

For any non-emergency changes to the property, landlords must provide 60 days’ notice of intent to terminate the lease, unless the lease term is longer. Then, landlords must notify tenants of intent to cancel and wait until the lease expires.

Laws About Rent and Late Fees

When can a landlord increase rent?

A landlord can increase the rent at the expiration of the term provided they notify tenants at least 60 days in advance. 

Is there a maximum amount of rent that a landlord can charge tenants?

There is no legal maximum on the amount that a landlord can charge in rent.

Is there a state-mandated grace period that landlords must give tenants before charging a late fee?

Landlords must provide a 5-day grace period before assessing any late fees. (§5501 d)

Is there a limit on how much of a late fee the landlord can charge tenants?

A landlord may charge no more than 5% of the monthly rent as a late fee and only if the lease specifically mentions late fees. (§5501 d)

Legally Required Disclosures

What types of disclosures are landlords required to supply regarding ownership of the property?

Every lease must prominently display names and business addresses of property owners or their appointed resident agents or any person or entity who would be deemed a landlord. (§5105)

Can the owner or landlord designate an agent to serve and receive disclosures on their behalf?

Yes. (§5141 l)

What disclosures related to mold are landlords required to supply?

None are mentioned in state laws, but federal and local regulations may apply.

What disclosures related to lead paint are landlords required to supply?

While Delaware has no specific laws surrounding lead paint, federal and local laws may apply.

Laws About Landlord Responsibilities

How much notice does the landlord have to supply before entry?

A landlord must provide 48 hours’ notice before entering a tenanted property. (§5509)

When can the tenant refuse to allow the landlord entry?

A tenant can deny entry to a landlord who has failed to provide proper notice or when an entry is requested before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. (§5509 b)

What steps must the landlord take to keep the property habitable?

In general, landlords are responsible for ensuring that tenants have safe and reliable access to all systems that contribute to their enjoyment of the property. Units must comply with local and state building and housing codes, and all systems must be in good working order (electric, water, HVAC, etc). Common areas must be clean and safe, all repairs must be performed within 30 days, and estimates should be in progress for repairs within 10 days. (§5307)

What amenities must the landlord supply and maintain?

The landlord must maintain electrical, plumbing and all other facilities provided by the landlord. If specified in the lease, the landlord may also be responsible for garbage receptacles and disposal, along with water, hot water and heat. (§5305)

What utilities must the landlord supply and maintain?

None, unless specified in the lease. A landlord must supply separate meters for utilities paid directly by the tenant. (§5312)

Does the landlord have to supply a certificate of inspection to the tenant?

No move-in inspection certification is required.

Is the landlord required to supply locks and keys?

While no mention is made of landlord-required keys, tenants have the option to pay for new locks and keys, provided the landlord receives a copy of the new key, the new lock fits with the existing key system and there is no damage done to the door during installation. (§5509 a)

Are retaliatory actions prohibited in Delaware?

Retaliation against tenants is strictly prohibited. Some examples of retaliatory actions might include an attempt to regain possession, either through the courts or via another route, or rent increases outside the standard amount or far in excess of fair market value. (§ 5516)

How long does a landlord have to retain a tenant’s property if they abandon it on the property?

Property that’s abandoned at the end of a lease or during the lease term must be retained by the landlord for 7 days after the end of the appeal period. The landlord may empty the unit and store tenant belongings at the expense of the tenant. After the grace period expires, the landlord may dispose of the property as they see fit. (§5507)

Property Maintenance and Repair Laws

What type of maintenance is the landlord responsible for?

The landlord must maintain the property in accordance with all housing and building codes, and common areas must be clean and in good repair. Major systems, such as plumbing, electric, water and heat, are typically the responsibility of the landlord. (§5305)

How long does the landlord have to make repairs once a maintenance request is submitted by the tenant?

A tenant may terminate their lease with no penalty if repairs are not completed within 15 days of notice to the landlord. If damage presents an immediate risk to the health and safety of the tenants, the lease may be terminated immediately without the need for a court case. (§5306)

What type of maintenance is the tenant responsible for?

The tenant is responsible for keeping the property in a clean and sanitary condition, using all appliances and systems as directed and avoiding unnecessary harm to the premises. A tenant must promptly notify the landlord of any needed repairs and provide reasonable access to maintenance professionals.

When does a landlord have to return and/or lower rent due to diminished rental value?

If a tenant loses access to a part of the rental unit due to a fire or other casualty, but the unit is otherwise habitable, the landlord must reduce the rent to reflect the diminished value. (§5309)

When can a tenant request an official inspection to determine substandard or dangerous living conditions?

While there are no specific laws related to official inspections, tenants may terminate their lease early if a landlord fails to make repairs or bring the unit up to local housing or building codes. (§5302)

Under what circumstances can a tenant make a repair and deduct the cost from the rent paid to the landlord?

A tenant may deduct the cost of repairs from the rent when they have notified the landlord of the need for repairs, the repairs were not completed within 30 days and the cost of the repairs is $200 or 1/2 of the monthly rent, whichever is less. A tenant may not deduct the repair cost when the damage is due to a lack of care in use by the tenant, a family member or another guest. (§5307)

Additional Rental Law Resources for the State of Delaware

Landlords and tenants in Delaware may find these resources helpful when trying to better understand the laws governing residential rental property.

Name Phone Number Description
Division of Human Relations: Fair Housing Information Center N/A Provides a quick explanation of protected classes and actions that may violate fair housing practices. Complaint forms are posted online. 
Delaware State Housing Authority (888) 363-8808 Offers residents information and resources to help locate housing and administers public housing and subsidized housing options. Has information on real estate investment programs for landlords and property owners.
Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (800) 292-7980 Offers low-cost or free legal advice for tenants involved in a legal dispute with a landlord, including advice on how to end a lease early. 

Note: This guide is intended to be used as an educational resource. The contents within do not constitute legal advice. To obtain information regarding property management laws in your state, consult a local attorney. This guide is based only on property management laws at the state level. Local county and city laws may exist that are not discussed in this guide. Consult a local attorney to obtain information that pertains to your specific location and situation.