Delaware may be a small state, but residential landlords command rents are over 10% higher than the national average. The State of Delaware does not charge sales tax or assess property taxes on the state level (but there are county, school district and possible municipal property taxes). Combined with business-friendly laws, Delaware’s high rents and low taxes make for a winning combination for landlords.
At a Glance:
Late Fees: Delaware does permit late fees at a maximum of 5% of the rent, however it cannot be charged until after the tenant is more than five days late with the rent.
Security Deposit: For lease terms of one year or longer, there is a limit of one months’ rent that can be taken by a landlord from a tenant for a security deposit. A pet deposit is permitted as well in addition to but must be no more than one month’s rent and can only be used for damages caused by the pet.
Returned Payment Fee Limit: When a payment is returned, the landlord may charge up to $40 as a fee on top of the face amount of the check.
Notice to Enter: The landlord must provide a 48 hours’ notice to enter unless there is an emergency.
Late Fee/Returned Check Fee:
Late Fee Limit: As stated above, there is a five percent maximum for rental late charges in Delaware. Oddly though, when and if a landlord chooses to charge a late fee, he/she must have an office situated in the county where that rental dwelling is located, where the tenant may pay rent. **If the landlord does not have such an office, three additional days added to the rental due date must be given to the tenant to pay the rent before a late charge may be added.
Returned Check Fee Information: Even though electronic payments are becoming the norm, there is still the occasional payment returned for insufficient funds. In Delaware, the landlord may charge a maximum NSF fee of $40 on top of the face amount.
Delaware’s security deposit restrictions and requirements for returning funds to tenants are found in Chapter 55, Section 5514. Although you may collect more than one month’s rent for a security deposit, anything over that amount must be returned after the one-year period as a credit or payment to the tenant. These limits do not apply to furnished rentals.
The security deposit’s intent is to insure that the tenant will adhere to the lease and make sure that the rental property is kept in good condition as it was received. The security deposit or the balance must be returned within twenty days’ time from when the termination or ending of the rental agreement. If the landlord must make deductions, then they must provide to the tenant a full itemized list of deductions, plus any leftover balance.
Pet deposits must be used for pet damage first. Any leftover funds may be used for damages that are not covered by the amount of the security deposit.
Right of Entry:
In Delaware, the tenant may not hold back consent unreasonably for the landlord to enter the rental property. This means if the landlord provides the necessary notice of at least 48 hours to make repairs, supply services or to show the rental unit and that it is between the hours of 8AM and 9PM, that the tenant must allow the landlord to enter. In any emergency, no notice is needed.
Please note: there are specifics regarding apartments abandoned by a tenant where entrance by the landlord is concerned. This can be found in: Chapter 55, § 5507 (landlord remedies for absence or abandonment).
Proper notice is the first stage in eviction. Non-payment of rent requires a five-day notice which gives the tenant a choice to pay the amount or face full legal consequences toward eviction. If a tenant breaks another term or condition of the lease, ten days’ notice is needed. If the tenant is able to stop or correct the infraction, no further court action will occur, however if the tenant ignores the notice or if a “fix” is not available than further actions towards the court eviction will move forward. Notices can be mailed or delivered personally. The days’ notice does not include weekends.
If the problem continues past the notice period, the landlord will take a trek to the local district or county courthouse and file a Summons and Complaint and pay any fees. Each court uses their own specific forms and in some cases may be found on the Internet. For instance, the Legal Service Corporation of Delaware, Inc. (LSCD) has a website where the filing forms may be found.
Questions? Ask a Delaware Attorney!
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