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Can a tenant terminate a lease agreement?

Under Delaware law, a tenant can terminate a rental agreement in the first month if the landlord does not adhere to the terms of the lease or if the tenant moves into a property where an issue exists that violates an ordinance, code, statute or regulation and the tenant maintains possession because of a promise by the landlord to correct the issues. If the same breach occurs again within six months, the tenant may terminate the agreement by giving the landlord a 15-day written notice specifying the breach and rental agreement termination date.

When any condition deprives the tenant of a substantial amount of the enjoyment or benefit of the use of the proprty, the tenant is required to notify the landlord of the condition. The landlord then has 15 days to remedy the issue, otherwise, the tenant can terminate the rental agreement and free itself of any continuing obligations. The tenant could then file an action in the appropriate court to seek damages, including a rent deduction from the date of the notice to the landlord.

If the tenant or the tenant's guest or family caused the unsafe or uninhabitable condition through their negligent or intentional actions or omissions, the tenant cannot terminate the agreement. This means that the tenant is still obligated under the rental agreement and must continue to pay rent.

In all landlord/tenant disputes, an attorney can help advise a landlord client on what rights it possesses. This can help the client make an informed decision on how to proceed with the situation before the tenant terminates the agreement.

Source: State of Delaware , "§ 5302. Tenant remedy; termination at the beginning of term.", October 16, 2014

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