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The lease can solve many, but not all, landlord-tenant disputes

It happens all the time to landlords in Delaware: a dispute arises between them and their tenants. Perhaps the tenant has stopped paying rent, or is paying less than the full amount. Or they have moved in roommates or pets that they were not supposed to.

As most veteran landlords know, the first thing to do in any dispute with a tenant is to refer to the lease. A lease is a contract between a landlord and a tenant that lists each party’s rights and obligations. It contains the amount of the rent, how often it is to be paid and so on. Leases generally are in writing, though in Delaware they don’t have to be, if they are for one year or less.

Many landlord-tenant disputes can be solved by finding the relevant passage in the lease. However, sometimes the language is open to differing interpretations, or the lease is silent on the issue.

When something like that happens, state law may intervene. For example, even if the lease does not include any promises on the landlord’s part to keep the rental property in good condition, state law requires him or her to do so. Similarly, tenants must keep the premises clean and use the electricity, heat and similar facilities in a reasonable matter.

A landlord-tenant dispute can be quite costly to the property owner, especially if the tenant tries to break the lease or damages the premises. Depending on what is at stake, and the complexity of the disagreement, it may make sense to consult an attorney.

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