Delaware Renter’s Rights for Repairs

Delaware Renter’s Rights for Repairs

Last Updated: March 6, 2023

Tenants in Delaware have the legal right to repairs for issues that place the property in violation of state health and safety standards. To exercise this right, they must properly notify the landlord in writing and allow 15 days for the repairs to be made.

Delaware Landlord Responsibilities for Repairs

Delaware landlords are responsible for keeping all of the following in good working condition:

  • Common areas.
  • Anything required to comply with local codes.
  • Anything impacting health, safety, or habitability.

If any of the following features are provided by the terms of the lease, landlords are also responsible for maintaining them properly:

  • Heating.
  • Hot water.
  • Electricity.
  • Plumbing (if the landlord agrees to supply water).

If any of the above stops working properly, and the tenant isn’t at fault for the damage, the landlord is the one responsible for making the repairs necessary to fix it.

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What Repairs Are Tenants Responsible for in Delaware?

Delaware tenants are responsible for repairing any damage they cause to the property which affects health and safety.

The landlord and tenant can write an agreement, separate from the lease, requiring the tenant to handle specific maintenance. This can’t include work needed to bring a noncomplying property into code compliance, and the tenant has to receive some benefit in exchange for agreeing to take on the landlord’s duties.

Requesting Repairs in Delaware

Delaware tenants must request repairs by writing to the landlord promptly after noticing a need for repairs, although non-written notice is acceptable if the tenant proves it effectively communicated the situation (for example, if notice was verbal but the landlord gave a written reply showing an understanding of the issue).

How Long Does a Landlord Have To Make Repairs in Delaware?

Delaware landlords usually have 15 days to make repairs after notice. In the first month of occupancy, however (and for six months after, if the same issue recurs), the tenant can end the lease anytime the landlord fails to repair, even with a promised time frame under 15 days.

Can the Landlord Refuse To Make Repairs in Delaware?

Delaware landlords cannot refuse to make repairs that are their responsibility.

Do Landlords Have To Pay for Alternative Accommodation During Repairs in Delaware?

Delaware landlords generally don’t have to pay for alternative accommodation during repairs. However, anytime the landlord fails to supply agreed utilities, the tenant can obtain alternative accommodation after 48 hours’ notice, stop rent payments, and bill the landlord for additional expenses up to half the monthly rent.

Tenant’s Rights if Repairs Aren’t Made in Delaware

Delaware tenants, depending on the situation, can cancel the rental agreement if the landlord doesn’t make timely repairs. They can also sue for damages or get an injunction to force repairs. If the failure is wilful or negligent, or interrupts promised utilities, the tenant can also obtain substitute housing.

Out of court, tenants can also withhold rent and repair and deduct, if they follow the statutory requirements and limitations.

Can the Tenant Withhold Rent in Delaware?

Delaware tenants may withhold up to two-thirds of the proportionate daily rent, when the landlord doesn’t remedy his failure to supply agreed utilities. While it’s technically not considered rent withholding, a tenant who’s repairing and deducting can also hold back up to half the monthly rent, depending on the situation.

Can the Tenant Repair and Deduct in Delaware?

Delaware tenants can repair and deduct from rent. The tenant can have repairs done to professional standards 10 days after delivering a repair request, if the landlord hasn’t yet gotten at least an estimate for repair costs. The tenant can also repair 30 days after notice, if repairs aren’t completed.

The allowed deduction is $400 or half the monthly rent (whichever is less), and the tenant must provide the landlord copies of receipts to prove their repair costs amounted to at least the deducted amount. Deduction is not allowed if the tenant is behind or rent, or caused the issue.

Can the Tenant Break Their Lease in Delaware?

Delaware tenants can break leases fifteen days after written notice, for failure to repair issues that weren’t the tenant’s responsibility, or other uncorrected violations of the rental agreement.

Tenants can move out and break the lease immediately, without a court process, when a condition makes the property uninhabitable or poses an immediate and imminent threat to the health and safety of a tenant (for example, if the floor begins to collapse).

Can the Tenant Sue in Delaware?

Delaware tenants can sue, when the landlord doesn’t make timely repairs. The tenant can sue to force repairs or recover monetary damages.

Can the Tenant Report the Landlord in Delaware?

Delaware tenants can report landlords for code violations that affect health or safety. Tenants should usually report to the local inspections or code enforcement department. If an inspecting officer finds a violation, the tenant could cancel the lease, sue to force repairs, or possibly withhold rent.

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Landlord Retaliation in Delaware

It’s illegal for Delaware landlords to retaliate with raised rent, reduced services, or threatened eviction against tenants who have taken one of the following protected actions in the past 90 days:

  • Reporting health and safety violations (or a government officer doing the same)
  • Complaining to the landlord about maintenance
  • Pursuing rights under the law or rental agreement
  • Participating in a tenant organization

The law allows an exception when the landlord can prove a non-retaliatory, good-faith reason for the alleged retaliatory action. For example, a landlord who raises rent proportionately in response to a large increase in property tax is not retaliating, even if a tenant has recently complained about maintenance.

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