Eviction Law in Delaware

What Is an Eviction?

An eviction is the forceful exiting of tenants following an issued notice by the property owner or landlord. Evictions usually come as a result of failure to pay rent, or from violations of the lease agreement. However, evicting a problem tenant can be a long and costly experience as landlord-tenant laws favor tenants. Getting a better understanding of Delaware eviction law can help.

Even though eviction notices happen as a result of serious problems with the tenant, not all eviction notices lead to an actual eviction. Oftentimes, eviction notices serve as a final warning for the tenant. If the tenant can then pay rent, or begin to follow the lease agreement, they may avoid eviction.

When Can Landlords Send a Termination Notice?

The Tenant Doesn’t Pay Rent

If a delinquent Delaware tenant frequently pays rent late, or has not paid rent at all, there is a good reason for eviction. Some states do have a grace period for an occasional late payment. However, if a tenant makes a habit of always paying late, that grace period does not apply and the property owner can provide an eviction notice.

Under Delaware law, a tenant must pay rent on the date specified in the lease. However, a landlord cannot charge a late fee within the five-day grace period.

You should always provide your tenant with “late rent” notices and keep a copy for yourself in your files. That way, if the eviction case goes to court, you have paper evidence of their failure to pay rent on time.

The Tenant Violates the Terms or Conditions of the Lease Agreement

Lease agreements are legal contracts. This means if your tenant violates the contract in any way, it can be grounds for eviction. For example, if your lease agreement says that your tenant cannot have an additional person living in the unit, and they violate this rule, you can begin the eviction notice process.

The lease agreement is also legally binding for the landlord. This means that any Delaware landlord must also follow the rules laid out in the agreement, such as making repairs, and performing maintenance written into the lease.

The Tenant Damages the Property

Tenants are going to cause damage to the property; it’s unavoidable. Wear and tear when living in a home is normal. Still, there’s a difference between scratches on the wall or broken blinds, and intentional destruction of property.

If it’s clear that your tenant is doing severe damage to your property, such as breaking through walls or smashing windows, this may be cause for eviction. However, if your tenant makes repairs themselves, and doesn’t make any major changes to the property, this might not be grounds for eviction.

The Tenant Uses the Property for Illegal Purposes

If your tenant is using your Delaware property for illegal purposes, such as selling drugs or weapons, this can be clear grounds for eviction. Reporting the issue might also bring criminal charges against the tenant.

However, you should prepare to provide evidence that the tenant is using the property for illegal purposes. If law enforcement came to the property to address these issues at any time, these reports can prove helpful.

How to Evict a Tenant in Delaware

If you want to evict a tenant for any reason, then you need to understand the eviction process. Here’s how it works.

Step 1. Check Your Local Laws

Delaware eviction law is different from other states and can also vary at the city level. Therefore, it’s important to familiarize yourself with local laws before taking any action. Always ensure you have a legally valid reason for an eviction before giving notice. A qualified Delaware attorney can help review your case to determine if you do.

According to the Delaware Courts, a landlord has the obligation to supply hot water, heat, and electricity to the tenant. If this doesn’t happen, the tenant may seek to keep two-thirds of the daily rent for any period they are not supplied.

If the landlord does not return the security deposit within 20 days of the termination, the tenant may seek the return of double the security deposit. This rule applies only if the tenant provides the landlord with a forwarding address.

Step 2. Give a Formal Notice of Eviction

If you have tried to reason with your tenants and they continue to violate the terms of your lease, you should then provide them with a formal notice of eviction. Your eviction notice will serve as an ultimatum or final warning. It should explain how your tenant is in violation, as well as what they can do to stop the eviction process.

The eviction notice should include a deadline for the tenant to either pay rent or move out, and the amount the tenant owes. If you’re unsure of how to create an eviction notice, you can use online templates or seek legal advice.

Before filing an action for summary possession, a Delaware landlord must provide a Notice to Quit that the rental agreement is being terminated. Under Delaware eviction law, a tenant has five days to cure delinquent rent and seven days to correct a rule violation. However, the landlord does not need to provide advance notice if the tenant’s breach causes irreparable harm to any person or property.

To file an action, the landlord must submit a Complaint Form to the Justice of the Peace Court closest to the rental property. Keep in mind, that if the action is for money only, the landlord should file a debt action instead of a summary possession action.

Step 3. File the Eviction with the Court

You must file the eviction notice with the court within a few days. The court will then set a hearing date and will notify the tenant of the hearing by a summons. In Delaware, the Justice of the Peace Court has jurisdiction over all landlord/tenant summary possession (eviction) proceedings. A three-judge panel of Justices of the Peace hear any appeals in these cases.

Step 4. Contact an Experienced Delaware  Eviction Attorney and Prepare for the Hearing

You should find an attorney as soon as possible to help you prepare for the hearing. Then, when you go to the hearing, you should bring the following documents:

  • Lease agreements
  • Records of payments
  • Bounced checks
  • Record of communication between you and the tenant
  • Record of the eviction notice
  • Proof that the tenant received the notice

Step 5. Evict the Tenant

If you’ve won the hearing, your tenant will have time to move out of your property. The amount of time allowed is dependent on the state, but it typically ranges from 48 hours to one week. If the tenant refuses to leave, you can contact Delaware law enforcement to forcibly remove them from the property.

Step 6. Collect Past-Due Rent Payments

If your tenant owes you rent money, you may still have a long fight ahead to collect past-due payments. You can try to collect these payments through several methods:

Work with an Experienced Eviction Attorney in Delaware

The tenant will likely try to argue that you did not follow proper procedures for providing an eviction notice. Having a qualified Delaware attorney on your side can take the pressure off your back, and help ensure a court victory. We can even help you connect with an attorney across Delaware state lines.

Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!

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