Delaware eviction laws provide a legal framework for landlords to follow to remove a tenant from a rental property. These laws detail the specific steps and conditions under which a tenant can be legally evicted, such as nonpayment of rent or lease violations.

In the years leading up to 2020, the state of Delaware had one of the highest rates of eviction filings in the country, with roughly 18,000 eviction filings per year. This article is written to help you better understand the Delaware eviction process, which is essential for anyone who might find themselves in an unfortunate situation where they need to file an eviction.

Pro Tip: A great strategy to reduce the risk of ever having to file an eviction in the first place is to thoroughly screen your rental applicants before you sign a lease with a prospective renter. By reviewing a tenant's background, credit history, and income, you can protect yourself against the possible financial losses that come with going through a lengthy eviction process.

Overview of Eviction Laws in Delaware

  • Notice Requirements: Landlords in Delaware must provide proper notice before commencing an eviction, which includes a 5-day notice for unpaid rent or a 7-day notice for lease violations.
  • Court Proceedings: If a tenant does not vacate after receiving the proper notice, landlords must file an eviction lawsuit in the appropriate Delaware court. In Delaware, eviction lawsuits are a way for landlords to protect their property rights and address lease agreement violations by tenants.
  • Eviction Hearings: Tenants in Delaware have the right to a hearing where both parties can present their evidence and arguments.
  • Tenant Defenses: Tenants in Delaware may have legal defenses available, such as proof of rent payment, improper notice, or breach of habitability.
  • Judgment and Removal: If the court rules in the landlord's favor, a legal eviction order will be issued, and the tenant must leave the property within the court-specified timeframe. If the tenant does not move out voluntarily, the court will enforce the order through the local police or sheriff's office.

Key Components of Lease Agreements in Delaware

In order to understand how an eviction could even happen in the first place, it's essential to understand what a lease agreement consists of. In the state of Delaware, every lease is generally comprised of the following components.

Rent Amount

This section specifies the monthly payment the tenant agrees to pay the landlord. It outlines how much, when, and where rent payments should be made.

Grace Period & Late Fees

Here, the lease details any grace period allowed for late rent payments and the fees incurred if the rent is paid past this period, ensuring clarity on penalties for late payments.

Lease Duration

This part of the lease outlines the start and end dates, specifying whether it’s a fixed-term (such as one year) or a month-to-month agreement, providing clear expectations on how long the tenant has the right to occupy the property.

Security Deposit Terms

It describes the amount of the security deposit required, conditions for its return, and any reasons part of it might be withheld (like damages) at the end of the lease term. In the state of Delaware, the law (25 Del. C. § 5514) details that landlords are restricted to a deposit equivalent to one month's rent on a long-term lease (12+ months), but, on a month-to-month lease, there is no security deposit limit. If the tenant has a pet, the landlord can charge an additional security deposit equal to one more month of rent. 

Terms for Utilities

This section clarifies who is responsible for utilities (water, gas, electricity, internet, etc.), detailing whether the landlord includes any utilities in the rent or if the tenant is responsible for all or specific utilities.

Maintenance Responsibilities

This section of the lease defines who is responsible for property upkeep, distinguishing between landlord duties (like structural repairs) and tenant responsibilities (such as routine cleaning and minor repairs). It ensures both parties know who handles various maintenance tasks to keep the property in good condition.

Lease Termination Conditions and Notices

This section of the agreement outlines under what conditions the lease can be terminated early by either party, including notice periods required for ending the lease (e.g., 60 days' notice). It also covers specific scenarios such as breach of lease terms, providing clear guidelines for legally ending the lease agreement in the state of Delaware.

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Security and Pet Deposit Guidelines in Delaware

In Delaware, the requirements for handling and returning security deposits are clearly detailed in state statute under 'Residential Landlord-Tenant Code, Title 25, Chapter 55, Section 5514.'

  • Handling and Returning Deposits: Delaware law requires clear terms for security and pet deposits in lease agreements. Landlords must conduct initial and final property inspections and provide an itemized list of deductions, if any.
  • Return Timeframe: Landlords in Delaware must return security deposits within 20 days after tenant departure.
  • Legal Limits: Delaware law caps security deposits at a maximum of one month's rent for year-long leases.

Basic Tenant Rights in Delaware

In Delaware, basic tenant rights are consistent with similar laws across all 50 states. Here's a snapshot of what those tenant rights look like in ‘The First State.'

Habitable Living Conditions

Delaware's landlord-tenant laws ensure tenants have the right to live in safe and clean homes. Landlords must legally offer rental properties in good condition, meaning they must meet state-issued health and safety standards. This guarantees tenants can rely on their landlords to keep important utilities like plumbing and heating in working order for a safe and secure living space. 

The rule for habitable living conditions and their enforcement (25 Del. C. § § 5307 and 5308) also includes following the state of Delaware's building and housing codes, which were created to prevent tenants from living in inadequate or unsafe conditions.

In addition:

  • Tenants are responsible for keeping their living spaces clean and reporting necessary repairs.
  • Delaware law provides tenants with remedies if landlords neglect maintenance obligations, including rent withholding or lease termination.

Protection Against Discrimination 

Protection against discrimination under the Fair Housing Act is a significant part of the laws in each state that govern evictions. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. Landlords in Delaware must adhere to these guidelines throughout the eviction process to ensure fair treatment of all tenants. By upholding the principles of the Fair Housing Act, landlords can avoid legal issues and uphold the rights of their tenants. Landlords need to familiarize themselves with the provisions of the Fair Housing Act to ensure compliance and prevent any discriminatory practices in eviction proceedings.

Due Process in Evictions

In Delaware, the eviction process is governed by specific laws to ensure tenants are provided with due process. Regarding eviction proceedings, landlords must adhere to the state laws outlined in the Delaware Landlord Tenant Code to evict a tenant legally. This includes providing proper written notice and following the correct procedures set forth by the law.

One crucial aspect of due process in evictions in Delaware is issuing an eviction notice. Landlords must serve tenants with a formal eviction notice, stating the reason for the eviction and giving them a specific amount of time to rectify the issue or vacate the premises. The eviction notice must comply with the requirements laid out in the Delaware eviction laws and should be delivered to the tenant in a legal manner.

Failure to follow the correct eviction process can lead to delays and even dismissal of the eviction case. Landlords need to understand and adhere to the eviction laws in Delaware to avoid potential legal pitfalls and ensure a smooth eviction process.

Landlord & Tenant Privacy Rights

For tenants in Delaware, privacy rights are safeguarded by various state laws and regulations. In the context of evictions, tenants have the right to privacy within their rental unit, even amidst the eviction process. Landlords must adhere to specific guidelines regarding entry into the rental unit, especially during the eviction proceedings. This protects the tenant's privacy and ensures that the eviction is conducted according to the law.

On the other hand, landlords also have privacy rights that must be respected during eviction. Landlords have the right to protect their property and assets, which includes the right to access the rental unit for inspections and maintenance. However, landlords must follow the correct procedures and provide proper notice to tenants before entering the premises, even in cases where eviction is imminent.

Eviction Process Overview in Delaware

Evictions are a legal process by which a landlord can remove a tenant from a rental property. Here is a breakdown of how that process works.

Grounds For Eviction

The most common grounds for eviction permitted by Delaware law include:

Nonpayment of Rent: This occurs when a tenant fails to pay the rent on time. Delaware law allows landlords to issue a notice to pay or vacate, giving tenants a short period (usually five days) to pay the rent or face eviction proceedings.

Lease Violations: These can range from causing damage to the property and having unauthorized pets or guests to violating specific rules set forth in the lease agreement. Depending on the violation, landlords may need to provide a notice and allow time for the issue to be corrected before moving forward with eviction.

Illegal Activities: Engaging in illegal activities on the property, such as drug manufacturing or distribution, can lead to immediate eviction proceedings without the need for a cure period.

Grounds for Eviction

Notice Period Required

Additional Details

Nonpayment of Rent5 daysTenant must pay the overdue rent within the notice period to avoid eviction.
Lease ViolationsVaries (often 7 days)Tenant may have the opportunity to remedy the violation within the notice period.
Illegal ActivitiesImmediateNo cure period is required; landlords can proceed with eviction due to the severity of the offense.

Written Notice Requirements

In Delaware, landlords must adhere to specific written notice requirements before proceeding with eviction for unpaid rent or lease violations. Here's a detailed explanation, along with a simplified chart for quick reference.

5-Day Notice for Unpaid Rent: If a tenant fails to pay rent on time, the landlord is required to provide a written notice giving the tenant 5 days to pay the rent in full. If the rent is not paid within this period, the landlord may initiate eviction proceedings.

7-Day Notice for Lease Violations: For violations of the lease agreement other than nonpayment of rent (such as unauthorized pets, guests, or damage to the property), landlords must give a 7-day written notice. This notice should detail the violation and allow the tenant 7 days to correct the issue. Failure to remedy the violation can lead to eviction.

Quick Reference Chart


Notice Period


Unpaid Rent5 daysGives the tenant a 5-day window to pay overdue rent.
Lease Violations7 daysAllows the tenant 7 days to correct a lease violation as specified in the notice.

Legal Procedures

After the appropriate notice periods have expired without tenant compliance, landlords in Delaware must follow formal legal procedures to proceed with an eviction. Here's an expanded explanation, along with a chart for an at-a-glance understanding.

Filing an Eviction Lawsuit: Once the notice period ends and if the tenant has not resolved the issue (be it unpaid rent or a lease violation), the landlord must file an eviction lawsuit, also known as a "Summary Possession Action," in a Delaware court. This step is crucial as landlords cannot legally evict tenants without court approval.

Serving Legal Documents: After filing the lawsuit, the court serves the tenant with legal documents (25 Del.C. § 5706), including the complaint and summons. This service must be done according to Delaware law, ensuring the tenant is informed of the lawsuit and allowed to appear in court to defend themselves.

Quick Reference Chart



Filing an Eviction LawsuitLandlords must officially file a lawsuit in Delaware court after notice periods have ended without tenant compliance.
Serving Legal DocumentsTenants must be properly served with legal documents informing them of the eviction lawsuit and their right to defend in court.

Tenant Rights and Defenses in Eviction Proceedings in Delaware

In 2023, Delaware passed a state law guaranteeing qualifying low-income renters a right to legal representation during eviction proceedings. Tenants in Delaware have specific rights and defenses they can assert during eviction proceedings, ensuring fair treatment under the law.

Below, we expand on these rights and common defenses, accompanied by a chart for easier comprehension.

Challenging Improper Notice: Tenants may try to defend against an eviction by arguing that they did not receive proper notice as required by Delaware law. This includes cases where the notice period was too short, the notice was not delivered in the prescribed manner, or the notice lacked essential information.

Disproving Alleged Lease Violations: If the eviction is based on claimed violations of the lease agreement, tenants have the right to present evidence that disputes these allegations. This could involve proving that the claimed violation never occurred or that the tenant's actions did not breach the lease terms. This could be related to unpaid rent, noise violations, unauthorized occupants, etc.

Due Process Rights: Delaware law protects a tenant's right to due process in eviction proceedings. This means tenants have the right to be notified of the lawsuit, to have a fair opportunity to present their case in court, and to challenge the landlord’s claims before an eviction can be legally enforced.

Quick Reference Chart

Defense Type


Challenging Improper NoticeTenants may contest the eviction if the notice was incorrect, insufficient, or improperly served.
Disproving Alleged Lease ViolationsTenants can argue against eviction by providing evidence that they did not violate the lease as alleged by the landlord.
Due Process RightsEnsures tenants have the opportunity to hear and respond to the landlord's claims in a fair court hearing before eviction can proceed.

Regional Variations in Delaware Eviction Laws

While Delaware's statewide laws provide a framework for the eviction process, local jurisdictions may have slight variations in how these laws are implemented. Below, we explore these differences in more detail and offer a chart to illustrate how eviction procedures can vary between counties and cities within Delaware, along with a few examples.

Notice Requirements: Some local jurisdictions might specify different notice periods for rent arrears or lease violations, potentially longer than state minimums, to provide tenants with additional time to remedy issues.

Filing Fees and Procedures: The cost to file an eviction lawsuit and the procedural steps required can differ. This includes variations in the documents needed to file an eviction and the timeline for court hearings.

Tenant Protections: Certain areas may offer greater protections to tenants, such as restrictions on evictions during extreme weather conditions or additional requirements for landlords to provide evidence of lease violations.

Examples of Local Variations

New Castle County: Might have specific options for landlord-tenant mediation programs (e.g., ERAP: Emergency Rental Assistance Program) designed to resolve disputes before reaching the eviction stage, aiming to reduce the number of evictions and foster better landlord-tenant relationships.

City of Wilmington: Could implement ordinances that require landlords to obtain a rental license before leasing properties, including compliance with certain health and safety standards, which indirectly affects the eviction process by ensuring properties meet specific criteria before tenants move in.

Quick Reference Chart of Regional Examples


Notice Requirements

Filing Procedures

Tenant Protections

New Castle CountyExtended periods for some noticesMediation programs availableEnhanced dispute resolution options
City of WilmingtonStandard state notice periodsRental license required for landlordsHealth and safety standards enforcement

Conclusion: Security Deposit Returns in Delaware

In Delaware, the process of returning a tenant's security deposit is governed by specific legal requirements designed to protect both the tenant's and landlord's interests upon the termination of a lease. This concluding section outlines the obligations of landlords regarding security deposits, emphasizing the importance of timely and transparent communication with former tenants. 

Here's a detailed breakdown and a chart for easier understanding.

Legal Framework for Security Deposits: Upon the end of a tenancy, Delaware law stipulates that landlords must adhere to a strict procedure for handling security deposits. This includes assessing the property for any damages beyond normal wear and tear, cleaning, or unpaid rent.

Itemization of Deductions: If there are any deductions from the security deposit, landlords are required to provide a detailed itemized statement. This statement must list and describe each deduction, including the reasons for and the amount of each deduction. This transparency ensures that tenants understand why they may not be receiving their full deposit back.

Deadline for Returning Deposits: Landlords have a 20-day window from the tenant's move-out date to either return the security deposit in full or provide the tenant with the written statement of deductions. This tight timeframe underscores the importance of prompt action by landlords to assess the property and communicate any deductions to the former tenant.

Quick Reference Chart

Legal FrameworkLandlords must follow Delaware law for security deposit returns, including assessing damages and unpaid dues.
Itemization of DeductionsLandlords must provide a detailed itemized statement of any deductions from the security deposit for damages, cleaning, or unpaid rent.
Deadline20 days from the tenant's move-out date to return the deposit or provide a statement of deductions.

Key Takeaways

  • Transparency and Fairness: The requirement for an itemized statement of deductions promotes transparency, ensuring tenants understand the basis for any withheld funds.
  • Promptness: The 20-day deadline reinforces the necessity for landlords to act promptly in assessing the property condition, calculating deductions, and communicating with tenants.
  • Legal Compliance: Adherence to these procedures is not just about ethical property management; it's a legal requirement in Delaware, with potential consequences for landlords who fail to comply.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the steps to evict a tenant in Delaware?
A: The eviction process in Delaware involves several key steps:

  1. Serving the Proper Notice: Depending on the reason for eviction (e.g., nonpayment of rent, lease violation), the landlord must serve the tenant with the appropriate notice, giving them a chance to rectify the issue.
  2. Filing a Lawsuit: If the tenant does not comply with the notice, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit, known as a Summary Possession action, in court.
  3. Attending a Court Hearing: Both the landlord and tenant will have the opportunity to present their case during a scheduled court hearing.
  4. Obtaining a Court Order for Eviction: If the court rules in favor of the landlord, they will issue an order of eviction, allowing the landlord to remove the tenant legally.

Q: What are maintenance obligations for landlords and tenants in Delaware?
A: In Delaware, both landlords and tenants have responsibilities to maintain the rental property:

  • Landlords' Obligations: Landlords must ensure the property is in a habitable condition by making necessary repairs, maintaining common areas, and ensuring all vital services (like heat, water, and electricity) are functioning.
  • Tenant's Obligations: Tenants are responsible for keeping the property clean, disposing of trash properly, and promptly reporting any needed repairs or maintenance issues to the landlord.

These responsibilities are designed to ensure the rental property remains safe, sanitary, and in good repair throughout the tenancy.