Governor Jack Markell has signed several landlord-tenant bills that will take effect between June 27th and August 30th 2013; below is a summary of new Delaware landlord-tenant law changes:
Surety Bonds – The first bill effective on June 27th 2013 gives tenants and landlord the option of using surety bonds instead of traditional refundable security deposits. It permits the tenant, upon landlord approval, to purchase a non-refundable “surety bond” in lieu of paying the landlord a refundable security deposit. Surety bonds cost a fraction of the typical one-month’s-rent security deposit, cutting down tenants’ moving costs, but surety bonds are non-refundable whereas a security deposit is fully refundable provided the tenant meets his obligations of the lease.
Typically surety bonds cost 10-20% of the security deposit required, and if the landlord makes a claim the bonds only pay out up to the covered security deposit amount. Coverage generally includes rent defaults and damage caused by the tenant.
Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Detectors – A bill that specifies the tenant’s responsibility with regards to smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors also goes into effect on June 27th 2013. A tenant may not remove or tamper with a working smoke or carbon monoxide detector that was installed by the landlord. This includes removing the working batteries.
Display of American Flags – As of July 3rd 2013, the Governor enacted a bill permitting a real property owner or tenant to display an American flag on a pole attached to the exterior of the property’s structure or on a flagpole located within the property’s boundaries. The flagpole may not exceed 25 feet in height and must conform to any setback requirements. Any and all community restrictions to the contrary will not be enforceable.
Death of a Tenant – Lastly, the Governor signed into Act a bill that will take place at the end of August 2013. This bill allows the next of kin or personal representative (with valid documentation by the Register of Wills) to remove the deceased tenant’s personal belongings from the rental unit. If necessary, the landlord is permitted to file and maintain an action for summary possession. There are also procedures specified in Title 25 to address how a landlord may regain possession of the rental property and specifying whether or not it is necessary to have a summary proceeding. This bill also allows a landlord to bring debt action for any monies due while protecting the estate’s interest in the security deposit, as applicable.