As a landlord, knowing when the law is on your side can be challenging, especially as eviction moratoriums made it illegal to remove or cause the removal of a tenant for nonpayment of rent. Landlords in Delaware and elsewhere have mortgages to pay or repairs to make themselves, so it is important to know what lawful measures they may take against a renter who is breaking the lease.
Landlords are still coming out of a challenging financial climate, so taking care of their interests is a priority. Both common law and state laws outline certain mutual obligations between landlords and tenants, and violations of these responsibilities can result in legal action. While avoiding a dispute may be an optimal outcome, there are situations where going to court may be the best recourse.
What mutual obligations exist between landlords and tenants?
When a renter begins a lease, they may not realize that paying rent is not the only obligation they have. In landlord-tenant law, there are duties that either side owes to the other, making their mutual obligations dependent on each other.
The landlord owes a duty to maintain and provide safety on the common grounds and keep the rental units in good working condition, which includes making repairs in a timely manner. The renter owes the landlord a duty to pay for the space they rent on time, to not damage the property and to not engage in illegal activity while on the property.
A misinterpretation of these mutual obligations is easier to resolve when there is good communication, but in some circumstances, enforcing the law may be necessary.
When is legal action the best response?
Under Delaware landlord-tenant codes, there are remedies available to landlords when a renter fails to follow the terms of the lease. For nonpayment of rent, they may:
- Impose late fees for nonpayment of rent and begin an action for rent and accrued late charges once they have given notice.
- Seek summary possession of the rental unit.
A tenant must notify the landlord of an extended absence from the premises, and the landlord may enter the unit during this absence to inspect or maintain the unit. If the tenant abandons the unit, the landlord may:
- Demand the rent due for the remainder of the lease.
- Demand accrued rent, the difference between fair rental and the rent that the tenant paid in the prior agreement, expenses to re-rent the unit, repair expenses and commission.
Unless the renter appeals the judgment of summary possession, the landlord may possess the property and remove the personal effects of the renter. The renter has seven days to appeal the judgement.