Delaware Habitability Laws

QUICK FACTS
  • Landlord Responsibilities. Maintain all electrical, plumbing, facilities in good working order, and keep all common areas of the buildings, grounds, facilities in clean and sanitary condition (read more).
  • Making Repairs. Landlords are required to make all repairs and arrangements necessary to keep the rental unit in good condition within 15 days of receiving notice from tenant (read more).
  • Tenant Options. If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, tenant has a right to withhold rent until repairs are made and to make repairs and deduct those costs from the rent (read more).
  • Retaliation. If a tenant has exercised their legal right, landlords are not permitted to retaliate by increasing rent or decreasing services (read more).

The implied warranty of habitability in Delaware does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are & aren’t included.

Dwelling TypeLandlord/Tenant Laws Apply?
Single familyYes
Multi-familyYes
Fraternities/Sororities/ClubsNo
RV parksNot specifically addressed
Mobile home parksNot specifically addressed
CondosNot specifically addressed
Hotels/MotelsNo

Landlord Responsibilities

The following chart lists possible landlord responsibilities when it comes to habitability.  Not all of them are requirements in Delaware, as indicated below.

Note: some of the below items may not be addressed at the state level but may be addressed on a county or city level. Check your local housing codes to see which additional requirements may apply.

Habitability IssueLandlord Responsibility?
Provide windows and doors that are in good repair.No
Ensure the roof, walls, etc., are completely waterproofed and there are no leaks.No
Provide hot and cold running water.If specified in rental agreement
Provide working HVAC equipment.If specified in rental agreement
Provide working plumbing and electrical wiring/outlets/ lighting.Yes
Provide working gas lines if used for utilities/cookingNot specifically addressed
Provide working sanitation facilities (bathtub/shower, toilet).If provided, must be in working order
Provide a trash can (for trash pickup services).If specified in rental agreement
Ensure that any stairs and railings are safe.Not specifically addressed
Ensure that all floors are in good condition and safe.Not specifically addressed
Provide fire exits that are usable, safe, and clean.Not specifically addressed
Ensure storage areas, including garages and basements, do not house combustible materials.No
Provide working smoke detectorsNot specifically addressed
Provide a mailbox.No
Provide working wiring for one telephone jack.No
Provide working kitchen appliances.If provided, must be in working order
Provide working carbon monoxide detector.No
Provide a working washer/dryer.If provided, must be in working order

Insects/Rats

Landlords are required to keep rental units free from rat and insect infestations.

Making Repairs

If tenants request repairs, they must put their request in writing to their landlord.

  • Sending notice – The landlord will have fifteen days to make any necessary repairs after receiving written notice from the tenant.
  • Landlord access – Tenants are required to give the landlord access to the property to make necessary repairs. However, the landlord must give tenants 48 hours’ notice unless it’s an emergency.

Tenant’s Options if Repairs Aren’t Made

If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, the tenant has a few possible options for resolving the issue.

  1. Withhold rent – under Delaware landlord tenant law, the tenant has a right to withhold rent until repairs are made.
  2. Repair and deduct – tenants have the right to repair the issue themselves and deduct a reasonable amount for the repair, not exceeding $200 or half month’s rent (whichever is lesser) from the following month’s rent.
  3. Substitute housing – tenants have the right to move into temporary housing until the issue is resolved.  No rent is due to the landlord while the tenant resides in temporary housing, and the landlord must pay the tenant’s expenses, up to half the original rent payments.
  4. Lawsuit – tenants have the right to take legal action for damages resulting from habitability issues.
  5. Reporting to Public Officials – landlords can be reported on a city or county level to housing inspectors if they are found to be in violation of any local housing codes.

Landlord Retaliation

Delaware habitability laws prohibit retaliatory acts by the landlord against the tenant for exercising their right to:

  • complain about habitability issues to the landlord or any authority tasked to enforce the law
  • file a complaint to a government authority
  • join a tenant’s union or organization
  • pursue a legal right to remedy habitability issues

It is considered retaliatory conduct if one of the acts mentioned above takes place and the landlord attempts to:

  • recover possessions from the property
  • demand an increase in rent
  • decrease services to which the tenant is entitled

If tenant can prove that the landlord instituted any of these retaliatory acts within 90 days of any official complaint filed by the tenant, the tenant may either recover three month’s rent or triple the damages sustained by the tenant, whichever is greater.

Sources