Landlord-Tenant Code

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SUMMARY: Delaware Residential Landlord Tenant Code

Prepared for the Department of Justice of the State of Delaware by Michael Morton, Esq.

This summary of the newly adopted Delaware Residential Landlord Tenant Code was prepared in conjunction with the Department of Justice, in fulfillment of the requirements of 25 Del. C. §5118. The purpose of this summary is to permit citizens to familiarize themselves with the provisions of the Code and with the landlord's and tenant's rights and obligations under the Code. The new Residential Landlord Tenant Code became effective on July 17, 1996 and applies to all new leases signed after that date. The new Code may also apply to renewals and extensions of preexisting rental agreements if both the landlord and the tenant agreed that it shall apply to the agreement. Otherwise, the prior Landlord Tenant Code shall apply to renewals and extensions.

This is only a general summary. It does not purport to cover all aspects of the Residential Landlord Tenant Code. For resolution of specific legal questions, reference should be made to the statute itself (25 Del.C. §5101 to §5718) or to an attorney.

The section numbers listed in this summary refer to specific sections of the Residential Landlord Tenant Code. General questions concerning this Code may be referred to the:

CONSUMER PROTECTION UNIT
ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE
Carvel State Office Building
820 North French Street
Wilmington, Delaware 19801
302-577-3250

INDEX TO SUMMARY
  1. BECOMING A TENANT
    1. Rental agreement defined
    2. Landlord required to provide a copy of agreement
    3. Rental agreements for period longer than one (1) year must be in writing
    4. A landlord may require an application fee
    5. A landlord may require a security deposit
    6. Other fees
    7. A landlord may not discriminate, Fair Housing requirements
    8. Disclosure of ownership of the rented unit
    9. Summary of the code
    10. Conflicts with the code
    11. Service of notices
  2. MOVING IN TO THE RENTED UNIT
    1. Rented unit
    2. Tenant remedies if the rented unit is not available
    3. Installation of new locks
  3. CONDITION OF THE RENTED UNIT
    1. The landlord must:
    2. Termination by tenant at the beginning of the term
    3. Termination, by tenant, after the first month
    4. Repair and deduction from rent
    5. Failure to provide essential services
    6. Receivership
    7. Fire or other catastrophe
    8. Consumer Protection Unit
  4. TENANTS' OBLIGATIONS AND LANDLORDS' REMEDIES
    1. Payment of rent
    2. Tenant's failure to pay the rent
    3. Increases in the amount of the tenant's rent
    4. Tenant obligations relating to rental unit
    5. Tenant breach of rules or neglect of unit
    6. Access to the rental unit
  5. TERMINATING A RENTAL AGREEMENT
    1. Term
    2. Notice of termination
    3. What if termination notice is not given
    4. Tenant's ability to terminate early
    5. Abandonment or breaking a rental agreement
    6. Restrictions on sublease or assign the rental agreement
    7. Retaliatory acts prohibited
    8. Single room rentals in the landlord's residence
    9. Unlawful ouster or exclusion of tenant
  6. ACTIONS FOR SUMMARY POSSESSION OF THE RENTED UNIT
    1. Grounds for summary proceeding
    2. Who may maintain a summary possession proceeding
    3. How to begin an action for summary possession
    4. What the complaint must state
    5. Trial
    6. Execution on the judgment and writ of possession
    7. Stay of proceeding after judgment is entered

SUMMARY

I. BECOMING A TENANT
  1. Rental agreement defined. (§5141(u))

    A rental agreement includes all agreements, written or oral, which establish or modify the terms, conditions, rules, regulations or any other provision concerning the use and occupancy of a residential rental unit.

  2. Landlord required to provide a copy of agreement. (§5105)

    Where there is a written rental agreement, the landlord is required to provide the tenant with a copy of the agreement, free of charge.

  3. Rental agreements for period longer than one (1) year must be in writing. (§5106)

    Unless a rental agreement is in writing, it will not be effective for any longer than one (1) year. Agreements which have no term will be for a term of month to month.

  4. A landlord may require the payment of an application fee. (§5514(d))

    Where the tenant is required to pay a fee to determine the tenant's credit worthiness such a fee is call an application fee. A landlord may charge an application fee not to exceed the greater of 10% of the monthly rent, or fifty dollars ($50.00). The landlord is required to provide the tenant with a receipt for the payment of the application fee.

  5. A landlord may require a security deposit. (§5514)

    1. Amount of Deposit

      1. A landlord may require the payment of a security deposit. The security deposit may not be more than one (1) months rent if the rental agreement is for one (1) year or more.

        Where the rental agreement is not for a defined term, or where it is on a month to month basis, the landlord may charge more than one (1) months rent as a security deposit. However, once the tenant has lived in the unit for one year or more the excess deposit must be returned to the tenant. There is no limit on the amount of security deposit that can be charged on a furnished rental unit. If the rental agreement so specifies, then a landlord may increase the security deposit to an amount commensurate with the rent.

      2. Pet deposits.

        A landlord may require the payment of a pet deposit for the rental of the unit, if the tenant will have a pet in the unit. No landlord may require a pet deposit in excess of one (1) months rent, regardless of how long the rental agreement will last.
    2. How the security deposit must be treated.

      1. Where located.

        A security deposit must be held in a federally insured bank with an office within the State of Delaware. The account must be called a security deposit account, and cannot be used in the operation of the business of the landlord.

        The landlord must disclose to the tenant the location of the security deposit account. If the landlord does not provide the location of the security deposit account, within twenty (20) days of the receipt of a written request for that information, then the landlord forfeits the security deposit to the tenant.

      2. Procedure for return of security or a pet deposit.

        Prior to vacating the property, the tenant must provide a forwarding address to the landlord, in writing. Within twenty (20) days of the termination or expiration of the rental agreement the landlord must provide the tenant with an itemized listing of any damages to the premises, and the cost of repair, and return any money remaining from the security deposit to the tenant.

        If the landlord fails to provide the listing, that will mean the landlord is not entitled to keep any of the security deposit, and it all must be returned to the tenant. If the tenant does not agree with the list of damages or the amount being withheld, then the tenant must object to the listing, and the amount of money being withheld or the tenant will have agreed to the list and the amount being withheld.

        If the tenant has provided the landlord with a forwarding address and the landlord does not return any security deposit due to the tenant, then the tenant is entitled to recover double the amount wrongfully withheld by the landlord. If the landlord refuses to pay the amount wrongfully withheld then the tenant can bring an action for debt in the Justice of the Peace Court.
  6. Other fees. (§5311)

    A landlord may not charge any non-refundable fee as a condition for the tenant living in the rented unit, unless that fee is an optional service fee for actual services rendered to the tenant.

  7. A landlord may not discriminate, Fair Housing requirements. (§5116)

    No landlord or its agent may discriminate against a tenant or prospective tenant, by refusing to rent, subrent, sublease, assign or by canceling any existing rental agreement by reason of the tenant's race, creed, religion, marital status, color, sex, national origin, disability, age or occupation or because the tenant or prospective tenant has a child or children in the family. No landlord may charge a greater amount for rent for the reasons set forth above. A landlord may reserve rental units exclusively for rental by senior citizens.

  8. Disclosure of ownership of the rented unit. (§5105)

    On each written rental agreement, the landlord must prominently disclose the usual business address of all persons who are owners or agents of the owners. In the case of an oral agreement, this information must be provided to the tenant, upon demand.

  9. Summary of the code. (§5118)

    The landlord must provide every tenant with a copy of this summary, free of charge, at the beginning of the rental term.

  10. Conflicts with the code. (§5101)

    No provision of a residential rental agreement, whether oral or written, is enforceable, if it conflicts with the Residential Landlord Tenant Code.

  11. Service of notices. (§5113)

    Any notice required by the Residential Landlord Tenant Code must be in writing and may be served upon the landlord or upon the tenant in any of the following ways:

    1. Personal service by leaving a copy with an adult or an agent at the dwelling or place of business;
    2. By Registered or Certified mail;
    3. By First Class Mail, with a certificate of mailing;
    4. Posting of the unit, combined with b or c;
    5. Personal service by a special process server appointed by the Court.
    In the case of mailed notice, the return receipt signed or unsigned, or the certificate of mailing, is considered evidence of service of the notice.

II. MOVING IN TO THE RENTED UNIT

1. Rented unit. (§5303)

The landlord must supply the rental unit that the tenant bargained for at the beginning of the term, and put the tenant into full possession of the unit.

2. Tenant remedies if the rented unit is not available. (§5304)

If the rented unit is not ready or if the landlord fails to put the new tenant into full possession, then the tenant will not have to pay rent during the time that the tenant is unable to enter the rented unit. In addition the tenant may:

a. Give notice to the landlord terminating the rental agreement, and requesting the return of all pre-paid rent, pet deposit or security deposit money;

b. Recover reasonable expenses to obtain substitute housing if the inability to enter is caused by the landlord or by the landlords failure to conform to building and housing codes;

c. Bring an action in the Justice of the Peace Court to evict a holdover tenant, and then recover the costs of the action and the costs of substitute housing from the landlord.

3. Installation of new locks. (§5509)

A tenant has the right to install a new lock on the door to the rental unit at the tenant's expense but only if:

a. The Tenant notifies the landlord in writing, and supplies a key to the new lock;

b. the new lock fits into the system already in place and;

c. the lock installation does not cause damage to the door.

 

III. CONDITION OF THE RENTED UNIT.

1. The landlord must: (§5305)

a. Comply with laws governing the maintenance, construction, use or appearance of the unit and the property of which it is a part.

b. Provide a unit which shall not endanger the health or safety of the tenant and is fit for the purpose for which it is expressly rented.

c. Keep clean and sanitary all areas maintained by the landlord.

d. Make repairs necessary to keep the unit in as good a condition as it was or should have been at the start of the rental.

e. Maintain the facilities provided in good working good order.

f. If the agreement specifies that the landlord is responsible for it, provide garbage receptacles and for the removal of garbage.

g. If the agreement specifies that the landlord is responsible for it, water, hot water, heat and electricity.

2. Termination by tenant at the beginning of the term. (§5302)

If the landlord fails to comply with the rental agreement or if there is a substantial non-compliance with other legal requirements, then the tenant may during the first month, on written notice to the landlord, terminate the rental agreement.

3. Termination, by tenant, after the first month. (§5302)

a. First six (6) months. If the tenant remains in the rented unit, based upon a promise of the landlord to correct a problem that occurred during the first month and the same problem recurs during the first six (6) months of the rental then the tenant may terminate the agreement after giving fifteen (15) days written notice to the landlord.

b. At any time. The tenant may terminate at any time if a condition exists that deprives the tenant of a substantial portion of the benefit and enjoyment of the bargain the tenant made at the beginning of the rental period. To terminate the tenant must notify the landlord in writing and give the landlord fifteen (15) days to remedy the condition complained of before terminating. The tenant must then file an action to have the agreement terminated in the Justice of the Peace Court. The tenant may seek damages in the action filed in the Justice of the Peace Court.

c. May not terminate if condition was caused by tenant. The tenant may not terminate if the condition being complained of was caused by the tenant, a member of tenant's family or any other person on the property with the consent of the tenant.

d. Penalty if caused willfully or negligently by landlord. If the condition complained of was caused by the willful conduct or the negligence of the landlord then the tenant can recover damages including the greater of the cost of substitute housing or one months rent and the security deposit.

4. Minor repair and deduction from rent. (§5307)

a. A landlord must start efforts to correct defective conditions within ten (10) days of being notified by the tenant of the defect and must remedy the condition completely with thirty (30) days. If the landlord fails to repair, maintain, or keep the rented unit in sanitary condition, or to perform any thing required by Code or ordinance after being notified in writing by the tenant to do so, then the tenant may complete the repair and deduct the lesser of one half months rent or a sum not exceeding Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00).

The tenant may not deduct if the condition was caused by the tenant his family of anyone on the premises with permission of the tenant. The tenant may not deduct if otherwise delinquent in the payment of rent.

b. Wrongful deduction or withholding from rent. (§5308)

Withholding rent or deducting from the rent has some risk for a tenant. If the tenant withholds rent or deducts from the rent and the Court finds that the withholding or deduction was wrongful then the Court can grant the landlord either possession of the rented unit or a judgment for the amount withheld. If the Court finds that the withholding was done in bad faith then the Court can grant the landlord damages of double the amount withheld by the tenant. If those damages are not paid then the Court can enter a judgment for possession without any further notice to the tenant.

5. Failure to provide essential services. (§5308)

The landlord must supply essential services to the tenant if required to do so by the rental agreement, this Code or a housing Code. If the landlord fails to provide such services for a period in excess of forty eight (48) hours after being notified by the tenant of the problem, then the tenant may upon written notice to the landlord:

a. Terminate the agreement;

b. Deduct per day of the rent which would have been due during the period the essential service is not provided.

A landlord can avoid this deduction by showing impossibility of performance. If the tenant has given this notice, and remains in the unit, and the landlord still does not correct the problem then the tenant may upon written notice to the landlord:

a. Terminate the agreement; or

b. Deduct per day of the rent which would have been due during the period the essential service is not provided; or

c. Procure equivalent substitute housing as long as the essential service is not provided, with a rent abatement for that period. Tenant may also recover for any additional expense incurred as a result of the failure up to ½ of the abated rent amount.

6. Receivership. (§§5901, 5905, 5906)

In addition to the rights set forth above, if the landlord does not provide heat, water, electricity or sewage facilities, or if the rented unit is dangerous to the safety or health of the tenant, then the tenant should give the landlord written notice. If there is no improvement within five (5) days then the tenant can ask the Justice of the Peace Court to establish a receivership. If the Court orders the receivership, the receiver will be the Consumer Protection Unit of the Attorney General's office.

7. Fire or other catastrophe. (§5309)

If, without the fault of the tenant, the premises are rendered unusable by fire or other extreme damage, the tenant may:

a. Immediately quit the unit and notify the landlord in writing that the tenant has left. This notice will terminate the rental agreement as of the date the tenant leaves the unit; or
b. If the tenant can still use part of the property then the rent shall be reduced in proportion to the reduction of the fair market rent of the unit.

If the tenant terminates then the landlord shall return any security deposit, or pet deposit and any prepaid rent to which the landlord is not entitled to retain.

8. Consumer Protection Unit of the Attorney General's Office.

The consumer protection unit of the attorney general's office has the power to enforce the provisions of the residential landlord tenant code. Suspected violations of the Code should be reported to the Unit by calling 577-3250.

 

IV. TENANTS' OBLIGATIONS AND LANDLORDS' REMEDIES

1. Payment of rent. (§5501)

The tenant must pay rent at the time and place agreed upon by both parties. Where the agreement provides for a late charge, the late charge may not exceed 5% of the monthly rent. A late charge is considered as additional rent. A late charge may not be imposed until five (5) days after the agreed upon time for the payment of the rent.

2. Tenant's failure to pay the rent. (§5502)

If the tenant fails to pay rent the landlord may, on the day after rent is due, send the tenant a five (5) day notice that rent must be paid within five (5) days from the date the notice was given or sent, or the rental agreement will be terminated.

If the tenant remains in default after the notice period then the landlord may bring an action for summary possession. If the tenant pays all rent due:

a. Before the landlord files the action for summary possession, then the landlord cannot start an action for summary possession unless the landlord accepted the rent subject to a written reservation of rights;
b. After the landlord has filed an action for summary possession, then the landlord cannot maintain the action for summary possession unless the landlord accepted the rent subject to a written reservation of rights.

3. Increases in the amount of the tenant's rent. (§5107)

If the landlord plans to increase the tenant's rent, then the landlord must give the tenant a minimum of sixty (60) days written notice prior to the end of the rental agreement term. Unless the tenant informs the landlord with fifteen (15) days that the tenant rejects the change, the change shall take full force and effect.

4. Tenant obligations relating to rental unit. (§§5503,5511 &5513)

The tenant must obey all applicable laws, requirements of the rental agreement and all reasonable rules as established by the landlord at the time of the signing of the rental agreement, or as amended during the rental period. The tenant's general responsibilities include:

a. Keeping the premises clean and disposing of garbage in a clean and safe manner;

b. Keeping all plumbing fixtures clean and safe;

c. Use in a reasonable manner all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilation and other facilities;

d. Not damage any part of the unit, nor permit others to damage the unit;

e. Complying with all rules (§§5511,5513);

f. Informing the landlord in writing of any repairs that the tenant believes the landlord should make (§5505);

g. Informing the landlord beforehand of any extended absence if the rental agreement requires such notice (§5506).

5. Tenant breach of rules or neglect of unit. (§5513)

If the tenant does not properly care for the rental unit, or breaches any rule or covenant which is material to the rental unit then the landlord shall give the tenant written notice of the breach and allow the tenant seven (7) days after the notice to correct the breach. If the tenant fails to remedy the breach, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement and bring an action for summary possession. Any notice of a breach may be relied upon by the landlord, for a period of one year, in the event of a substantially similar breach occurs and no further notice need be given.

If the breach can be remedied by the landlord the landlord may do so and bill the tenant for the actual costs of such remedy. If the breach also is a breach of a state or local Code or ordinance, the landlord may terminate the agreement and bring an action for summary possession.

If the breach causes or threatens to cause irreparable harm, or the tenant is convicted of a class A misdemeanor or felony during the term of the tenancy, which caused or threatened to cause irreparable harm then the landlord may without further notice either remedy the breach, or immediately terminate the rental agreement and bring an action for summary possession.

6. Access to the rental unit. (§§5509,5510)

The tenant is required to provide reasonable access for the landlord to enter the unit in order to inspect the unit, make repairs, decorations, alterations or improvements or to show the unit to prospective tenants, purchasers or mortgagees.

The landlord shall not abuse this right of access. The landlord is required to give the tenant forty eight (48) hours notice of intent to enter for any purpose other than those repairs requested by the tenant or for emergencies.

As to prospective tenants and purchasers only, the tenant may waive in writing, in a signed addendum, the requirement of forty eight (48) hours notice.

 

V. TERMINATING A RENTAL AGREEMENT

1. Term. (§5106)

The term of the rental should be set out in the rental agreement. No rental agreement, unless put into writing will be effective for a term of longer than one (1) year.

2. Notice of termination. (§5106)

Either the landlord or the tenant must give a minimum of sixty (60) days written notice if they intend to terminate an existing rental agreement. If the rental agreement is for more than month to month the notice must be given at least sixty (60) days prior to the expiration of the rental agreement. If the agreement is for month to month then the sixty (60) day notice will be effective sixty (60) days from the first day of the month following the day of actual notice. The notice must indicate that the rental agreement will terminate upon its expiration date.

If a tenant rejects a notice of renewal of rental agreement with modifications sent by the landlord under §5107 that rejection will be treated as an effective termination notice.

3. What if termination notice is not given. (§5108)

If either the tenant or the landlord fails to give the sixty (60) day notice, described above, then the rental agreement will continue as a month to month rental agreement and all other terms of the agreement will remain in effect.

4. Tenant's ability to terminate early. (§§ 5302,5304, 5308,5309,5314)

In addition to the reasons previously set forth, for a tenant's early termination of the rental agreement the Code also allows a tenant to terminate, under certain circumstances after giving thirty (30) days notice.

A tenant may terminate a rental agreement early, that is before its expiration, by giving the landlord thirty (30) days written notice if:

a. The tenant is required by his current employer to move the tenants residence in excess of thirty miles;

b. The serious illness of the tenant or a member of the tenant's immediate family member who lives in the tenant requires the tenant to move on a permanent basis;

c. The tenant is accepted for admission into a senior citizens facility or a group facility or retirement home;

d. The tenant is accepted for admission into a rental unit subsidized by a governmental or private non-profit corporation, including subsidized private or public housing;

e. The tenant, who after the execution of the rental agreement enters the military service of the United States on active duty;

f. The tenant who is the victim of domestic abuse, sexual offenses, stalking or who is seeking relief from domestic violence or abuse from any court, police agency, or domestic violence program or service; or

g. The tenant dies then the surviving spouse or the personal representative of the estate of the tenant may terminate.

5. Abandonment or breaking a rental agreement. (§5507)

If the tenant moves from the rental unit before the rental agreement expires, for reasons other than those allowed by this Code, the tenant shall be liable for:

a. The lesser of the rent due for the remainder of the rental term, and expenses for actual damages caused by the tenant, which are incurred in preparing the rented unit for a new tenant; or

b. All rent accrued during the period necessary to re-rent the premises, and all costs incurred in re-renting the unit.

6. Restrictions on a tenants ability to sublease or assign the rental agreement. (§5508)

A landlord may prohibit the subleasing or assignment of the rental agreement between the tenant and the landlord. The rental agreement may restrict subleasing or assignment in any manner. If the landlord allows subleasing or assignment then consent to the subleasing or assignment cannot be unreasonably withheld.

7. Retaliatory acts prohibited. (§5516)

Retaliatory acts by a landlord are prohibited by the Code. A landlord is presumed to be acting in a retaliatory manner if the landlord pursues an action for summary possession, or otherwise attempts to force the tenant to leave the premises, or demand an increase in rent, or decrease services to which the tenant is entitled within ninety (90) days after the tenant has:

a. Complained to the landlord or a government authority concerning the condition of the property;

b. A government entity has filed a notice or complaint concerning the condition of the property;

c. Organized or is an officer of a tenant organization;

d. Pursued or is pursuing any legal right or remedy arising out of the tenancy.

A landlord can overcome the presumption of retaliatory acts and proceed with filing an action for summary possession by showing:

a. The landlord has given appropriate notice under the Code, allowing early termination;

b. The landlord is seeking to recover possession to use the unit for landlords residence;

c. The landlord is not going to use the unit for rental for at least six (6) months;

d. The landlord intends to substantially alter, remodel or demolish the unit;

e. The condition complained of was caused by the tenant;

f. That the unit was in compliance on the date of filing the action for summary possession;

g. The landlord has contracted to sell the property;

h. The landlord is seeking possession based upon a notice to terminate, which was given prior to the tenant complaint.

i. The condition complained of was impossible to remedy prior to the time to cure;

j. That the costs of operation of the unit, including taxes have substantially increased;

k. That the landlord has completed a substantial capital improvement;

l. That the rent being demanded does not exceed that being charged to others in the same complex.

 

8. Single room rentals in the landlord's residence. (§5512)

Single room rental agreements for rooms in the landlord's residence may be terminated immediately upon notice to the tenant for a breach of the rental agreement or rules governing the use of the rented unit.

9. Unlawful ouster or exclusion of tenant. (§5313)

If the tenant has been unlawfully ousted or excluded from the rented unit, then the tenant can recover either three (3) times the damages incurred or three (3) times the per diem rent for the period of exclusion or recover possession of the unit.

 

VI. ACTIONS FOR SUMMARY POSSESSION OF THE RENTED UNIT IN THE JUSTICE OF THE PEACE COURT. (§§5701-5718)

1. Grounds for summary proceeding. (§5702)

A proceeding for possession of the rented unit, may be brought in the Justice of the Peace Court nearest the rented property, by the landlord or the tenant (where appropriate) for any of the following reasons:

a. Holdover. The tenant stays in a rental unit after the end of a rental agreement, without the permission of the landlord or the new tenant;

b. Failure to pay. The tenant has not paid the agreed upon rent, after receiving the five (5) day notice;

c. Wrongful deduction from the rent. The tenant has deducted money from the rent, in a way not permitted by the Code;

d. Breach of obligation. The tenant is not using the unit lawfully;

e. Holdover of employee. Where the tenant is an employee, or servant of the landlord, the landlord may recover possession fifteen (15) days after termination or dismissal;

f. Holdover after sale. When the tenant holds over for more than five (5) days after the property has been sold upon foreclosure;

g. Ouster. When the rightful tenant has been wrongfully ousted from the unit;

h. Holdover after fire or casualty. Where the tenant refuses to leave to allow the landlord to conduct necessary repairs after a fire or casualty loss;

i. Conviction of certain crimes during tenancy. When a tenant is convicted of class A Misdemeanor or any Felony, while a tenant, and which caused or threatened to cause irreparable harm to any person or property;

j. Commercial unit recovery of possession. Where the commercial rental agreement provides grounds for an action for summary possession;

k. Mobile home lots and leases. For any of the reasons set forth in the Mobile Home Lots and leases act, but only for those cases dealing with Mobile home lots.

2. Who may maintain a summary possession proceeding. (§5703)

A proceeding can be maintained by:

a. The landlord;

b. The owner;

c. A tenant wrongfully ousted;

d. The next tenant of the premises, whose term has begun;

e. A tenant.

3. How to begin an action for summary possession. (§5704)
An action is started by the plaintiff, filing a complaint in the Justice of the Peace Court nearest to the rental unit. The Court then serves the defendant with the complaint and sets the time and place for the hearing on the complaint.

4. What the complaint must state. (§§5707,5708)

STANDARD COMPLAINT

To be acceptable to the Court, the complaint is required to state:

a. The interest of the plaintiff in the rental unit;

b. The defendant's interest in the rental unit and defendant's relationship to the plaintiff;

c. Describe the rental unit;

d. The facts upon which the case is based and must attach a copy of any written notice which forms the basis of the complaint;
e. he relief sought, which may include a judgment for rent due, if the complaint clearly notes that such a demand has been made.

ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS OF CERTAIN COMPLAINTS

If the complaint is based upon a claim that the tenant has violated a lawful obligation (RULES) in relation to the use of the unit then the complaint must contain the following additional information:

a. Set forth the rule, or provision allegedly breached, and the date upon which the rule was made known to the defendant;

b. Must attach a copy of the rule or provision as it was provided to the tenant, as well as set forth how the rule was made known to the tenant;

c. Set forth the facts that constitute a continued violation or breach;

d. Set forth the purpose of the rule or provision;

e. If the rule is not part of the rental agreement that the rule does not work a substantial modification of the bargain.

Complaints that fail to comply with the requirements of these two sections can be dismissed by the Court.

5. Trial. (§§5710,5713)

A summary possession trial may be heard either by a single judge or by a six (6) person jury. To be heard by a jury either the defendant must notify the Court within ten (10) days of the receipt of the complaint, or the plaintiff must ask for a jury at the time the complaint is filed.

A verdict by a single judge is appealable to a three judge panel, for a new or de novo trial. A verdict from a jury trial may be appealed but the appeal is limited to a review of the record of the jury trial. The appealing party must state with particularity the points of law which are alleged to have been improperly decided by the jury trial.

6. Execution on the judgment and writ of possession. (§5715)

If the plaintiff is successful in trial, and a judgment is entered for the plaintiff, then a writ of possession may be issued by the Court. The plaintiff has the obligation to request the issuance of the Writ of possession. The sheriff will then serve the defendant with the writ, giving the defendant at least twenty four (24) hours to remove themselves from the rental unit.


MOBILE HOME LOT POSSESSION

If possession of a mobile home lot is granted to the plaintiff, then the defendant may under certain circumstances delay the effective date of the Writ of Possession. If the tenant, on or before the posting of the Writ of Possession, has prepaid a per diem storage charge in an amount equal to seven (7) days rent, then the Court can extend the notice period for the removal of the mobile home to a maximum of seven (7) days.

TENANTS PROPERTY WHICH IS LEFT BEHIND

If at the time of the execution, or enforcement of the writ, the tenant has left property behind in the rental unit, then the landlord may remove and store all such property. If the tenant does not pay for the removal and storage of the property within seven (7) days, then the landlord may dispose of the property without further notice or obligation to the tenant.

7. Stay of proceeding after judgment is entered. (§§5716,5717)

No action may be taken to enforce the judgment until the period for the appeal of the judgment has expired. The only exception is if the party against whom the judgment has been entered appeals and fails to post a bond, or undertaking to ensure payment of the judgment if the appeal is not successful.

The Court may also stay the execution of a judgment, if the Court finds that there was a good faith dispute, or reason for the failure of the defendant to pay the rent. If the Court finds that a good faith dispute existed, then the defendant may stay the writ of possession by paying the amount of the judgment or by assuring the Court that it will be paid within ten (10) days. If the defendant then fails to pay summary possession will be granted.