Landlords should familiarize themselves with the statewide rules and procedures that govern evictions in the state of Delaware and understand their responsibilities.
Quick Facts for Delaware
- Grounds for Eviction: Failure to pay rent, lease violation, illegal acts, causing harm to persons or property & lease agreement end
- Notice Required for Nonpayment of Rent: 5-Day Notice to Pay Rent
- Notice Required to Terminate without Cause: 60-Day Notice to Quit
- Notice Required for Lease Violations: 7-Day Notice to Correct/Cure Violation
- Fastest a Landlord Can Evict for Illegal Acts: Immediately (in cases of class A misdemeanor/felony offense)
How Long Does it Take to Evict a Tenant in Delaware?
The eviction process in the state of Delaware, like most court processes, is made up of several steps. As such, the amount of time required for obtaining an eviction is difficult to predict. The amount of time required to see the eviction process to completion depends upon many things. The landlord is required by law, in most instances, to provide a written notice regarding the issue causing him/her to seek eviction. The amount of time the landlord is required to provide the tenant to correct the issue at hand, and/or move from the property, depends upon the reason an eviction is being sought.
Although in some cases, the eviction process occurs rather quickly, the amount of time required may be longer than anticipated. The amount of time this process takes depends upon the reason the landlord is seeking eviction as well as the willingness of the tenant to fight the process.
The eviction process in Delaware generally follows the pattern of the landlord serving the tenant with a written notice regarding an issue. In rare cases, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process without first providing the tenant with a notice that there is an existing issue. In the state of Delaware, this can only occur when the tenant has committed a felony or class A misdemeanor that places others or the property in harm’s way.
If the tenant remains on the rental property beyond the time designated in the written notice, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process by filing a Summary Possession Action with the court.
Reasons for Eviction in Delaware
In the state of Delaware, a landlord may seek eviction for a variety of reasons (Del. Rev. Stat. 25 5502). These include:
- Failure to pay rent
- Violation of the rental agreement or lease
- Illegal activity
- Causing irreparable harm to an individual or the rental property
- End of the lease agreement
Generally, a landlord is required to provide written notice informing the tenant of his/her intention to seek an eviction. The amount of time required for the notice depends upon the reason the landlord is seeking an eviction. A notice may be provided by personal delivery or certified or registered mail. It is also acceptable in the state of Delaware for a notice to be posted on the door of the rental property.
If the tenant remains on the rental property beyond the amount of time provided in the notice, without correcting reasons for the notice, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process by filing a Summary Possession Action with the court.
Eviction for Failure to Pay Rent
In the state of Delaware, a landlord may evict a tenant for failure to pay rent. However, the landlord must first provide the tenant with a written 5-Day Notice to pay rent (25 Del. C. 5502m(a)). The required amount of time given the tenant may vary due to specific state regulations. For example, a landlord is required to provide a 7-Day Notice if the rental property in question is a manufactured home (25 Del. C. 7010A(b)(3)).
Regardless of the length of the notice, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process by filing a Summary Possession Action with the court if the tenant fails to pay the rent in full by the date indicated on the notice and continues to remain on the property.
Eviction if Rent has Been Paid
A landlord is able to end a rental agreement when there is no written lease in place regardless of whether or not the rent has been paid in a timely manner. When there is no active lease, the landlord is required to provide a 60-day written Notice to Quit before proceeding with the eviction process. If the tenant remains on the property beyond the amount of time identified in the Notice to Quit, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process by filing a Summary Possession Action with the court.
Evicting a Tenant For Violation of Rental Agreement/Lease
If a tenant violates the lease or rental agreement, the landlord must provide the tenant with a written 7-Day Notice to correct the issue. If the tenant fails to remedy the violation, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement and move forward with the eviction process by filing a Summary Possession Action with the court.
If the same violation occurs a second time within a year, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process without providing another written notice.
Evicting a Tenant for Illegal Behavior
In the state of Delaware, a landlord must generally provide a tenant with the opportunity to remedy a situation creating the landlord’s desire to evict him/her. However, when the tenant has committed a felony offense or a class A misdemeanor that places another individual or the rental property at risk, the landlord may immediately terminate the lease agreement and proceed with the eviction process (Del. C. 25 5702) by filing a Summary Possession Action with the court.
How Does a Landlord Evict a Tenant When There is no Lease?
When there is no written lease, the landlord may evict a tenant without cause. The landlord is required to send the tenant a written notice with a minimum of 60 days to relocate. If the tenant remains beyond the 60th day, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process by filing a Summary Possession Action with the court.
When Can a Tenant Not Be Evicted in Delaware?
In the state of Delaware, it is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant who has filed a complaint to a local or state agency about the condition of the property within the past 90 days. It is also illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant who is pursuing his/her legal rights or has joined a tenant union. A landlord may not evict a tenant based on his/her race, religion, family status, familial makeup, sexual orientation, belief system, age, occupation, disability status, or nation of origin.
Once a Summary Possession Action is Filed
When a Summary Possession Action is filed in court, a copy must be sent to the tenant and the court will schedule a trial date. Either the landlord or tenant may request a trial by jury. To do so, the tenant must make the request for a jury trial within 10 days of being served with the summary action. The tenant may also choose to file a counterclaim.
Once the date of the trial is determined, the court will mail a notice of the court date. Although it is impossible to be specific regarding the length of time that will pass between the court filing and the trial date, as the timing depends upon the number of cases already scheduled, the trial will generally be several weeks from the date the summary was filed. Because of the amount of time involved, the landlord may ask the court for a Forthwith Summons if there is proof that the tenant is causing damage to the rental property (25 Del. C. 5115).
The tenant must attend the court hearing or there will be a default ruling for the landlord. It should be noted that the losing party will be required to pay court costs.
If the court finds for the landlord, and the tenant continues to refuse to leave the property, the landlord may ask the court for a Writ of Possession. This writ allows a constable to assist in evicting the tenant.
Once Eviction Occurs
The tenant will be given a minimum of 24 hours to leave the rental property after an eviction. Any personal property the tenant leaves at the property may be removed and stored at the expense of the tenant. The landlord is required to store this property for a minimum of 7 days. If the tenant fails to retrieve his/her property and pay for its removal and storage, the property is deemed to be abandoned (25 Del. C. 5715(d)&(e)).
Make sure to read the Del. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 25 §§ 5106, 5502, 5513 & 5715 before starting the eviction process. Landlords should make sure to educate themselves on their rights and responsibilities on this topic.