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Delaware rental law and summary possession actions

Delaware law provides a strict series of guidelines for the protection of all parties to a lease of residential or commercial property. The intent is to ensure all sides are treated fairly and equitably. Understanding the rights and obligations of all parties prior to, during and after a summary possession action can help prevent costly misunderstandings or outright rejection of the case by the court having jurisdiction.

Before filing a summary possession action, appropriate written notice must be given of the violation as prescribed by Delaware law. There are few exceptions to this rule, most of which are predicated on the idea that the defending party's actions may cause immediate damage to the property or anyone living there. For landlords, failure to pay rent, willful damage to the property or violation of the rental agreement are all considered valid causes of action so long as the tenant is advised of the breach in writing and given appropriate time and opportunity to remedy the issue before further action is taken.

Tenants may also bring a summary possession action to address a landlord's failure to permit proper and agreed-upon access to the property, maintain basic habitability or undertake appropriate repairs and maintenance of the property. In either case, written communication is an essential step before involving the court.

In cases involving landlord-tenant matters, written documentation becomes a crucial part of the evidence for the cause of action. An attorney who has experience in real estate law can assist in the preparation or review of the notice to ensure it meets the required formalities, including the opportunity to cure the alleged breach.

Source: Delaware State Courts, "How To File and Defend a Summary Possession Action in the Justice of the Peace Court", January 05, 2015

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