In Delaware, a landlord’s obligation for providing a habitable living space is primarily governed by 25 DE Code § 5305. This legal requirement, commonly known as the “implied warranty of habitability”, also outlines the rights of tenants when repairs are not made in a timely manner.
Applicable Dwelling Types in Delaware
The implied warranty of habitability in Delaware does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are and aren’t included.
|Dwelling Type||Landlord/Tenant Laws Apply?|
|RV parks||Not specifically addressed|
|Mobile home parks||Not specifically addressed|
|Condos||Not specifically addressed|
Landlord Responsibilities in Delaware
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 Issue||Landlord 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/cooking||Not 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 detectors||Not 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|
Landlords are required to keep rental units free from rat and insect infestations.
Tenant’s Right to Repairs in Delaware
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 or the tenant may terminate the rental agreement.
- 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 in Delaware
If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, the tenant has a few options for resolving the issue.
- Withhold Rent – Under Delaware landlord tenant law, the tenant has a right to withhold 2/3 per diem rent until essential services such as water, hot water, heat or the equivalent are provided (if substitute housing is not supplied).
- Repair and Deduct – Tenants have the right to repair or maintain the issue themselves after 30 days from the receipt of notice or if the landlord fails to obtain an estimate of the costs within 10 days of the notice. The tenant may immediately do the work or hire a professional and deduct a reasonable amount for the repair, not exceeding $400 or half month’s rent (whichever is less) from the following month’s rent.
- Substitute housing – If the landlord does not supply essential services such as heat, water, hot water, electricity or the equivalent, a landlord may be liable for any additional expenses incurred by the tenant and up to half the amount of the abated rent.
- Lawsuit – Tenants have the right to take legal action for damages resulting from habitability issues.
- 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 in Delaware
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.
- Delaware Annotated Code, Title 25, Residential Landlord-Tenant Code Chapter 51.
- Delaware Annotated Code, Title 25, Residential Landlord-Tenant Code, Chapter 53.
- Delaware Annotated Code, Title 25, Residential Landlord-Tenant Code, Chapter 55.
- BlankRome, Widener Law Review, “Navigating Through Delaware’s Residential Landlord-Tenant Law.”