Delaware Habitability Laws

Delaware landlord-tenant law governs all related issues in the state. Read further to learn what landlords are responsible for providing and how long they have to make repairs. Learn how tenants should request maintenance and how habitability applies to damages and security deposits. 

Quick Facts for Delaware

Who Does The Warranty of Habitability Apply To?

The Warranty of Habitability in Delaware applies to short-term and long-term rental properties that are single-family or multi-family dwellings. Fraternity and sorority houses & hotels/motels are not covered under habitability laws.

How Long Do Tenants Have to Make Repairs?

7 days after being given written notice. Tenants may also have the cost of damages reduced from their security deposit if they are not fixed or paid for.

What Are Tenants Responsible For?

Tenants are required to keep the rental reasonably clean; landlords can ask a tenant to clean up if they are not doing so.

What are Landlords Responsible For Providing?

Working HVAC equipment, plumbing, electrical, sanitation facilities, and elevators (in buildings that have them), as well as a trash can (for trash pickup services). Landlords are not required to provide running water unless it is specifically stated in the rental agreement. They are also not required to provide trash receptacles unless specifically stated in the rental agreement.

How Long Do Landlords Have to Fix Something?

After tenants request repairs, landlords must make them within 12 days. They must also provide a 2-day notice before entering the unit to make these repairs.

Delaware statutes govern all landlord/tenant issues in the state.  The following chart lays out which types of rental units the law applies to.

Understanding the Law


In Delaware, landlords are responsible for ensuring that any common areas of rented or leased multifamily properties are clean and safe. 

NOTE

For all residential properties, landlords are required to ensure the property complies with any and all building codes and housing codes as they relate to the safety of the building and/or the health of the residents.

They’re also required to make and pay for any repairs to make the unit liveable that are not caused by the tenant. 

Tenants are required to pay for any repairs caused by their own negligence or intentional acts, which may come out of the security deposit.

Landlord Responsibilities

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


Addressing Habitability Issues
 

For any repairs a landlord makes due to the tenant’s actions, a landlord can:

  • Use the tenant’s security deposit to pay for any damage to the property when the tenant moves out.
  • Pay for the repair and charge it back to the tenant as additional rent.
  • Evict the tenant seven days after giving the tenant written notice.

Under the law, tenants are allowed to have seven days to correct any issues noted as the reason for terminating the lease, including repairing any damage they have caused.

Tenant Repair Requests

NOTE

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

The landlord will then have fifteen days to make any necessary repairs after receiving written notice from their tenant.

If the landlord fails to make the requested repairs within fifteen days, the tenant has the right to:

  • Terminate the lease immediately (more detail below).
  • Repair the issue themselves after 30 days and deduct the amount from their rent payment, if the repair is under $200, or half of one month’s rent, whichever is smaller.

Termination Requirements

If the tenant terminates the lease, they must also pursue legal action with the Justice of the Peace asking for a “determination” that the rental agreement was breached.

The only exception to pursuing legal action is if the tenant’s health or safety is in immediate danger, or if the unit becomes unlivable.   

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.

Failure to Provide the “Essentials”

If a landlord intentionally or negligently fails to provide heat, water, electricity, and/or other “essentials” for at least 48 hours, tenants have the right to:

  • Immediately terminate the lease.
  • Withhold partial rent until the issue is resolved.
  • 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.
NOTE

Retaliation against tenants for requesting repairs that affect habitability is illegal under Delaware statute.

Security Deposits and Repairs

Finally, if the costs for any repairs were taken out of the tenant’s security deposit, the landlord is required to provide an itemized estimate of everything to be paid from the deposit within 20 days of the lease’s termination. 

Otherwise, the landlord will be required to return double the amount withheld from the security deposit.

Sources

  1. Delaware Annotated Code, Title 25, Residential Landlord-Tenant Code Chapter 51.
  2. Delaware Annotated Code, Title 25, Residential Landlord-Tenant Code, Chapter 53.
  3. Delaware Annotated Code, Title 25, Residential Landlord-Tenant Code, Chapter 55.

Read About the Warranty of Habitability in Other States