Delaware Landlord Tenant Law and Regulations

What is the maximum amount I can collect as a security deposit?
When the rental agreement is for 1 year or more, or month to month tenancies that last one year or more, the security deposit may not exceed an amount equal to one month's rent. However, the landlord may require a security deposit in excess of 1 month's rent for a furnished rental unit, federally-assisted housing , and where the tenancy is expected to last less than 1 year.
Additionally, each security deposit shall be placed by the landlord in an escrow bank account in a federally-insured banking institution with an office that accepts deposits within the state.
Please Note: The landlord must disclose to the tenant the location of the security deposit account.

Landlords and tenants do have the option to use "surety bonds". A tenant would pay a non-refundable deposit for a bond instead of a security deposit. This will provide the landlord with the safety of a security deposit in place by the bond company while it permits the tenant to pay a lower cost, albeit a non-refundable cost.

Is it true that I must maintain an office for the receipt of rental payments?
Yes, landlords shall, in the county in which the rental unit is located, maintain an office or other permanent place for receipt of rental payments. Failure to maintain such an office, or other permanent place of payment where rent may be paid, shall extend the agreed upon time for payment of rent by 3 days beyond the due date.

May I charge a Pet Security Deposit?
A separate pet security deposit may be assessed, however, may not exceed an amount equal to 1 months rent. A Pet security deposit is not permitted for service animals.

May I charge a fee for late rent or a returned payment?
If the possibility of late fees are stated within the lease, late charges may not exceed $40. A late charge is considered additional rent and may not be imposed until 5 days after the date rent is due. Landlords may add reasonable fees to the rental payment to cover costs associated with returned payments, plus any charges the financial institution assesses.

My tenant has moved out, what do I do with their security deposit?
Within 20 days of lease termination or expiration of any rental agreement, the landlord shall provide the tenant with a refund of the full security deposit or an itemized list of damages, with the estimated costs of repairs for each deduction and shall tender payment for the difference between the security deposit and such costs of repair.

What is a common problem where security deposits are concerned?
At times landlords may try claiming deductions for items that are often characterized by the court as normal wear and tear. This situation may be prevented by realistically evaluating each deduction, providing proof of damage, as well as including repair receipts and pictures.

How can I end a Delaware lease agreement?
Landlords may terminate a lease by giving the tenant advance written notice of a minimum of 60 days’ as specified below:

  • Fixed Term Lease: Notice shall be given to tenant prior to the expiration of the term of the lease.
  • Month to Month Lease: Notice shall be given on the first day of the month following the actual notice.


Are there circumstances where I am required to release a tenant from a lease agreement?
A landlord may be forced to release a tenant from a contractual agreement when the dwelling unit or premise is damaged and/or destroyed by fire or casualty not caused by the tenant, deeming the rental property unlivable, or If the tenant is called to active military duty. Additionally, a tenant may seek release from a rental agreement with the court when a landlord does not abide by the state’s landlord obligations.

How long does the eviction process take?
As with any legal matter, exact timing is almost impossible as it depends on many factors. Overall, with no complications, the eviction process usually takes approximately 4-5 weeks.

Can I require my tenants to obtain renter's insurance?
Landlords may require tenants to obtain rental insurance.

How do I tell if my tenant has “skipped” out of the apartment?
Often times it’s best to look for the obvious, such as removal of personal goods, whether or not the tenant has come back to the premises at any time during a one week period, and simply no food in the refrigerator. It’s extremely important to document all of the “proof” gathered in order to determine abandonment. When in doubt, if payment of rent has not been made, the landlord may always file for eviction.

Do I have the right to enforce no smoking in my rental property?
A landlord may establish a “No Smoking” policy by providing so in the lease.

Do I have to give the tenant notice before I enter the rental property?
Landlords must give their tenants at least 48 hours' notice of intent to enter the rental premises. However, when repairs have been requested by the tenant, landlords may enter between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. In the case of an emergency the landlord may enter at any time.

Aside from the lease agreement, are there any additional documents necessary?
If the leased premises was constructed prior to 1978, the landlord must provide all tenants with the Lead-Based Paint EPA Disclosure and Lead-Based Paint EPA Pamphlet. The Landlord must also provide the tenant with a copy of an executed lease, free of charge.
In addition, a summary of The Delaware Residential Landlord Tenant Code" as prepared by the Consumer Protection Unit of the Attorney General's Office is required to be given to the new tenant at the beginning of the rental term and is included below under Addendums.

Disclaimer: The information provided herein is intended as a general discussion of legal issues concerning landlord tenant law. Information provided is not legal advice or a legal opinion, and it is recommended that the reader seek independent counsel for any specific issue.

Delaware legal questions can be asked and discussed on our State Landlord Law Forum, and further information can be found on our Delaware rental resources page.