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Read further to learn more about the residential lease termination process in Delaware and how many days notice are required in which situations.
What is a Lease Termination Notice?
A residential lease termination notice is delivered to a tenant when a landlord requests to end the lease agreement. The ultimate goal of this notice is to have the tenant move out of the property within the specific time frame indicated by Delaware law.
Residential lease termination occurs for three reasons, which are 1) the term of the lease is coming to an end and it will not be renewed; 2) the landlord wants to retake possession of the rental unit because the tenant has breached some terms or conditions of the lease agreement, or; 3) the tenant wants to terminate the lease because the landlord has breached some terms or conditions of the lease agreement.
For monthly lease agreements, either the landlord or the tenant has the option to terminate the lease at any time by giving the other party 60 days written notice in advance of termination.
For regular termination of a lease at the end, a lease termination happens when the lease expires. Either party or both may inform the other party of the intent to terminate the lease at its end, by giving 60 days written notice in advance of termination. This makes the intent of the parties clear, especially if there is a provision in the agreement for the renewal of the lease.
When a lease agreement exists that is longer than a month-to-month agreement and it expires, if the tenant continues to stay in the rental unit, with the landlord’s acknowledgment, the lease converts to a month-to-month agreement.
Early Termination for Cause
If the tenant violates the terms and conditions of the lease, such as not paying the rent on time or not following the terms and conditions of the lease agreement, the landlord has the option to terminate a lease early and sue for possession of the rental unit (eviction).
There are two categories of breaches of a lease agreement, which are 1) curable, and 2) incurable.
A curable breach caused by a tenant has the possibility of fixing the problem and then the lease continues. Examples of this are the tenant paying past-due rent along with the late fees or ceasing to cause problems for the neighbors by stopping excessive noise.
An incurable breach is something that the tenant has done, which violates the lease so seriously that the landlord will not permit any attempts to fix the problem. Examples of this are conducting illegal activities in the rental unit or creating a dangerous hazard to others.
A termination letter for early termination should give the tenant any options to cure the problem if the landlord allows this and give the number of days that the tenant is allowed to fix the problem before legal eviction proceedings will occur.
A tenant may terminate a lease early if the landlord breaches the lease agreement. The tenant follows the same procedure as described above if the breach is curable. Examples of a landlord’s breach are not repairing dangerous conditions or other things that make the rental unit uninhabitable.
Writing a Delaware Residential Lease Termination Letter
Here is a checklist of what to include in a residential lease termination letter for a rental unit in Delaware:
- Name and Contact Information: Give the name of the party (landlord or tenant) making the termination letter and their contact information for legal notices.
- Rental Unit: Identify the rental unit by its address and its description that is the same as the information used in the lease agreement.
- Termination Date: List the termination date according to the number of days of advance notice required by Delaware laws.
- Curing Defects: State in the letter, if the termination of the lease can be avoided by curing (fixing) any defects, which are violations of the lease agreement. State exactly what the tenant or landlord must do to cure the problem and the number of days allowed to achieve this.
- Sign and Date: The person preparing the lease termination letter needs to sign and date it. Then, this notice is served on the appropriate party by following the procedures described above.
Delaware-Specific Considerations for Lease Termination
Giving legal notice about these matters to another person is informing them in writing of the intent to terminate a lease. Certain procedures are necessary to follow for this notice to be given in a way that is accepted by the Delaware courts as being “served” properly. Any legal notice must be given to the person at the contact information noted in the lease agreement as their address for legal notices to be served.
Here are the proper methods of service under Delaware law:
Service of the termination letter can be done by the landlord, the tenant, an adult representative of either party or any adult. This includes paying a professional service company to serve the notice. The best way to serve another person is to hand them the written documents in person and, if possible, have an adult witness who observes the process and signs as a witness.
Delaware law also permits handing the document to any adult who accepts service on behalf of the person who is being served. For example, this might be an authorized occupant of the rental unit or an administrative worker at the office of the landlord. This method is called “substituted service.” If this method of substituted service is performed, get the correct spelling of the full legal name of the person accepting service on behalf of the person being served.
Service by U.S. Mail
If it is not possible or is not desirable to provide in-person service of the documents, then they can be mailed by using the U.S. Postal Service. Do not use UPS, FedEx, or other alternative delivery methods. Send the letter as certified, return receipt requested and allow five extra days for the mail to be delivered to the number of required days of the notice before termination.
Proof of Service
For in-person service, the adult who gives the documents, and an optional witness, sign a “proof of service” that is a written record of the completed service. This document says that the named person was served on a certain date and at a certain time. If you hire a professional service company to do this, they will give you this document to submit to the courts.
For service by mail, the adult who mailed the letter signs a “proof of service” that is a written record of the completed service that states the date that the letter was mailed and the address it was mailed to.