Most residential leases and rental agreements in Delaware require a security deposit. This is a dollar amount, usually one month's rent, that's intended to cover damage to the premises beyond normal wear and tear, and to cushion the financial blow if a tenant skips out early on the lease without paying. Here’s a summary of Delaware landlord-tenant laws that cover the use and return of security deposits.
Does Delaware law limit how much a landlord can charge a tenant for a security deposit?
Yes. Under Delaware landlord-tenant laws, a landlord may charge one month's rent on leases for one year or more; For month-to-month rental agreements there is no legal limit for secuirty deposits, and can require additional for a pet deposit. There is no limit for rental of furnished units. The tenant may offer to supply a surety bond in lieu of or in conjunction with a deposit, which landlord may elect to receive.
To learn more about steps that tenants can take to protect their security deposit after they've paid it, check out Nolo's article Protect Your Security Deposit When You Move In.
What about when a tenant moves out? What is the deadline in Delaware for returning a security deposit?
Under Delaware law, a landlord must return the tenant's security deposit, along with an itemized statement of deductions, within 20 days after the tenant has moved out.
Learn more about tenants' rights and landlords' obligations when it comes to the return of the security deposit in Nolo's chart Cleaning and Repairs a Landlord Can Deduct from a Security Deposit and Nolo's article Get Your Security Deposit Back.
Is there additional information that Delaware landlords must provide to tenants when it comes to security deposits in Delaware?
Yes. Orally or in writing, Delaware landlords must disclose to tenants the location of the security deposit. Also, be sure to check your local (county, city, or town) laws to see if your municipality requires landlords to take additional steps when it comes to tenants' security deposits.
Are nonrefundable fees permitted in Delaware?
No, under Stolz Management Co. v. Phillip, 593 A.2D 583 (1990).
Where can I look up Delaware law on security deposits?
If you want to go right to the source and look up Delaware law on security deposits -- or if you're writing a letter to your landlord or tenant and want to cite the applicable law -- the relevant statute(s) can be found at Delaware Code Annotated Title 25 § 5514. Your city or county might have different landlord-tenant and security deposit laws than those at the state level in Delaware. For tips on looking up Delaware state and local laws, check out Nolo's State Laws & Legal Research section.
For useful information on security deposits in Delaware, see the state's tenant guide at http://attorneygeneral.delaware.gov/consumers/protection/brochure/landlordcode.pdf.