Delaware Rent Control Laws in 2024

Delaware's laws regarding rent control and tenants' rights provide an important framework for the landlord-tenant relationship in the state.

While Delaware does not impose statewide limits on rent increases, there are still important regulations in place to govern notice requirements for increases, frequency of increases, and tenants' legal rights.

Unlike some states and local jurisdictions, Delaware does not have any form of "rent control" that caps the amount by which landlords can raise rents. However, landlords are still required to provide proper notice before increasing rent.

Tenants also have certain rights in Delaware when it comes to withholding rent in specific circumstances or challenging illegal retaliation from landlords. 

While the lack of rent control gives landlords broad freedom to set rental rates, tenants are afforded some protections under Delaware state law regarding notice periods for entry to rental units, security deposit returns, and maintaining habitable living conditions.

Understanding the framework of rental laws in Delaware can help both tenants and landlords navigate lease agreements and their ongoing relationship in ways that follow the regulations.

Delaware State Laws on Rent Control

Delaware does not have any statewide rent control laws that limit how much a landlord can raise rents. Landlord-tenant relations in Delaware are governed by the Delaware Landlord Tenant Code outlined in Title 25, Chapter 70 of state law. This code defines the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants when it comes to leases, rental agreements, security deposits, living conditions, evictions, and more. 

However, the Delaware Landlord Tenant Code does not impose any caps or limits on how much a landlord can raise the rent. There are also no rent control laws at the county or city level in Delaware. This means landlords have the ability to raise rents as much as the market will bear, as long as they provide tenants proper notice as outlined in the law. The lack of rent control gives landlords a lot of leeway when it comes to increasing rental rates.

Rent Increase Notice Requirements 

Delaware landlords are required to provide tenants with proper written notice before increasing rent. The amount of advance notice required depends on the amount of the rent increase:

  • For rent increases of less than 20%, landlords must provide 30 days' advance written notice to tenants before the increase can go into effect. 
  • For rent increases of 20% or more, landlords must provide 60 days' advance written notice to tenants prior to the increase taking effect.

Notice of a rent increase must be delivered in writing to each individual tenant. Posting notice on a common bulletin board or simply telling tenants verbally does not qualify as proper notice under Delaware law. 

The notice provided by the landlord should specify the new increased amount of rent, the date when the increase will go into effect, and the tenant's right to terminate tenancy if they do not agree to the increase.

If a landlord fails to provide the required 30 or 60 days written notice of a rent increase, the increase is considered invalid. Tenants would still owe their current rental amount until proper notice is delivered.

Frequency of Rent Increases

Unlike many other states, Delaware does not limit how often a landlord can raise the rent on a rental property. Landlords in Delaware are free to increase rents as often as they like, whether it's multiple times in one year or at the end of every month. 

There is no rule preventing back-to-back rent hikes in Delaware as long as the landlord provides proper written notice each time. A landlord could provide the required 30 days notice today to increase the rent by 15% starting on the 1st of next month, then turn around and give another 30 days notice to increase it another 10% after that. 

While some landlords may feel inclined to aggressively and frequently increase rents when there are no restrictions, most choose to only raise rents about once a year on average. The frequency often aligns with market rates, timing of lease renewals, and factors like maintenance costs and taxes. But tenants should be aware there are no protections in Delaware limiting how often their landlord can raise the rent.

Maximum Allowable Rent Increase

When it comes to raising rent, landlords have free rein in Delaware. There are currently no caps or limits on how much a landlord can increase the rent. Landlords can raise rents by any amount, as long as they provide the required notice period stated in the lease. 

The market ultimately dictates how much landlords can reasonably raise rents. If rents are raised exorbitantly high above neighboring rental rates, tenants will likely choose more affordable options and vacate the unit. However, landlords are legally entitled to raise rents without limit in order to keep up with market rates, increasing operating costs, property taxes, and other valid economic factors.

Some rent control advocates have tried unsuccessfully to introduce bills limiting rent increases in Delaware. But so far, no legislation has passed to restrict the amount landlords can raise rents. Delaware remains one of the states without any rent control laws dictating maximum allowable increases.

As a renter in Delaware, it's important to be aware that your landlord can increase your rent significantly at the end of a lease term. There is no legally defined threshold prohibiting large increases. Review your renewal carefully and determine if the new rate aligns with your budget. Be prepared to negotiate the increase amount or seek a new rental if needed.

Tenant Rights in Delaware

Renting an apartment or house in Delaware comes with certain rights designed to protect tenants. It's important for renters to know their rights when it comes to issues like habitable living conditions, security deposits, privacy, and retaliation from landlords.

Right to a Habitable Unit

Delaware law requires landlords to provide and maintain habitable living conditions in a rental unit. This includes keeping the property structurally safe and sound, with working heat, hot water, electricity, and appliances. The unit must be free from insects and rodents, and have adequate ventilation, plumbing, and drainage. If a landlord fails to maintain a habitable unit, tenants have the right to request repairs in writing. The landlord must make repairs within a reasonable timeframe, generally 14-30 days. Tenants may be able to withhold a portion of the rent or terminate the lease if the landlord does not make needed repairs after proper notice.

Security Deposit Rights 

Landlords in Delaware may charge a security deposit of up to 1 month's rent. The deposit must be returned to the tenant within 20 days after moving out, along with an itemized statement of any deductions made for damages. Normal wear and tear is not a valid reason for withholding a security deposit. Tenants have the right to be present at the move-out inspection and contest any proposed deductions. If a dispute arises over the deposit, tenants can sue for up to double the amount wrongfully withheld.

Right to Privacy

Tenants have a right to privacy within their rental units under Delaware law. A landlord may only enter the unit at reasonable times with proper notice, except in cases of emergency. Proper notice for entering a unit is generally considered to be at least 24 hours written notice delivered to the tenant. Reasons for entry must be clearly stated, such as to make repairs or show the unit to prospective tenants or buyers. A landlord cannot abuse the right of access to harass a tenant.  

Protection Against Retaliation

Landlords are prohibited from retaliating against tenants who exercise their legal rights. Examples of retaliation include illegally increasing rent, decreasing services, terminating a lease, or threatening eviction. If a landlord tries to evict a tenant within 90 days after the tenant filed an official complaint, it is considered prima facie evidence of retaliation. The burden of proof then shifts to the landlord to show a valid non-retaliatory reason for the eviction.

Withholding Rent in Delaware

In Delaware, tenants are permitted to withhold rent payment under certain circumstances if the landlord fails to maintain the rental unit in a fit and habitable condition. This is outlined in Delaware Code Title 25, Chapter 53 - Landlord Obligations and Tenant Remedies.

Tenants can withhold rent if there are serious health or safety violations that affect habitability, such as lack of heat, hot or cold running water, electricity, or other essential services. Minor or aesthetic issues like small cracks or worn carpeting do not warrant rent withholding.

In order to legally withhold rent, the tenant must:

  • Notify the landlord in writing of the issue and give reasonable time to make repairs. What is considered reasonable time depends on the severity and urgency of the issue.
  • Allow access for the landlord to come and make repairs. Tenants cannot unreasonably withhold access to the unit.
  • Keep up with rent payments by paying the rent amount into an escrow account with the court, rather than simply withholding the rent from the landlord. The tenant must get a receipt of payment from the court.
  • Continue paying rent into escrow each month until the repairs are satisfactorily completed. 
  • Apply to the Justice of the Peace Court to recover any rent paid into escrow if repairs take an unreasonable amount of time.

Withholding rent without following the proper process can allow the landlord to terminate the lease or evict the tenant. It's critical that tenants notify the landlord in writing, pay rent into escrow, and only withhold if repairs materially affect the rental unit's habitability.

Tenant Recourses

If a tenant believes their landlord has unfairly raised the rent or violated their rights in some other way, they have legal options for recourse in Delaware. Here are some of the main recourses available:

Small Claims Court

One option is for the tenant to file a lawsuit against their landlord in Delaware's Justice of the Peace Court. This court handles civil cases involving amounts up to $15,000. The tenant can sue for illegal actions like retaliation, failure to return the security deposit, or even rent overcharges in certain cases. The filing fees are relatively small and the process is designed to be navigable by non-lawyers. While legal representation is not required, consulting a tenant advocacy group or attorney can still be helpful.  

Tenant Advocacy Groups

There are a few tenant advocacy groups active in Delaware that may be able to provide advice and assistance to renters dealing with landlord disputes. These include the Community Legal Aid Society Inc., the Delaware Center for Justice, and the Tenant Support Center. They can explain tenant rights, help with the small claims court process, and may even be able to provide legal representation in some cases. These groups can be an excellent resource.

Hiring an Attorney 

If the dispute is more complex or involves larger sums of money, the tenant may want to consider hiring a lawyer. An attorney can file the case, represent the tenant in court, and make sure they are fully aware of all their rights and options under Delaware law. While expensive, legal representation greatly improves the chances of a favorable outcome in many disputes with landlords.

Rent Withholding 

As mentioned previously, tenants in Delaware have the right to withhold rent payments in certain situations, such as if a rental unit becomes uninhabitable due to the landlord's failure to maintain it. However, there are strict procedures that must be followed like notifying the landlord in writing and paying the withheld rent into an escrow account. This is considered a recourse of last resort.

Contacting State or Local Government 

If a tenant believes their landlord is violating rental ordinances and codes, they can contact city housing authorities or the Delaware state government for assistance. These agencies can inspect properties, issue fines, and force landlords to make necessary repairs. Reporting major health and safety violations is especially important.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the most a landlord can raise rent in Delaware?

There are no caps on rent increases in Delaware. Landlords can raise the rent by any amount as long as they provide the required notice.

What rights do tenants have in Delaware?

Tenants in Delaware have the right to habitable living conditions, meaning the rental unit must meet basic standards for livability set by the state. Tenants also have a right to privacy - the landlord must provide proper notice before entering the unit. Tenants have a right to get their security deposit returned at the end of a lease if there is no damage beyond normal wear and tear. Finally, tenants have a right to not have their rent increased in retaliation for complaining about property conditions or exercising other rights. 

Can a landlord enter without permission in Delaware?

No, a landlord in Delaware must provide 24 hours written notice before entering a rental unit, except for emergencies. Tenants have a reasonable expectation of privacy under Delaware law.

When can you withhold rent in Delaware?

If a landlord fails to maintain habitable living conditions, tenants can withhold rent in Delaware. But there is a process that must be followed:

  1. Notify the landlord in writing of the issue 
  2. Allow reasonable time for the landlord to make repairs
  3. Pay withheld rent into court escrow account

Withholding rent without following these steps is illegal. Tenants should consult an attorney before withholding rent.


In conclusion, Delaware does not have rent control laws that limit or cap how much a landlord can raise the rent. Landlords in Delaware can raise the rent as much as they want, as frequently as they want, as long as they provide the legally required notice.  

For rent increases of less than 20%, landlords must provide 30 days written notice. For increases of 20% or more, 60 days written notice is required. Rent cannot be increased during an active lease term unless specified in the original lease.  

Tenants in Delaware do have certain rights, such as the right to habitable living conditions, right to privacy, and right to withhold rent if the landlord fails to provide habitable conditions after proper written notice. However, Delaware tenants have fewer rights and protections when it comes to rent increases compared to states with rent control.

The key takeaways are:

  • No rent control laws in Delaware
  • Landlords can raise rents freely with proper notice 
  • 30 days notice required for <20% rent increases
  • 60 days notice required for 20%+ rent increases  
  • Tenants have right to habitable housing and can withhold rent if conditions are uninhabitable
  • Delaware tenants have limited protections against excessive rent increases
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