COVID-19 Information for Delaware
The purpose of this page is to provide apartment industry professionals with an overview of the issues affecting our industry with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. The page is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute, and should not be construed as, legal advice. This resource is not intended to provide a mandatory standard of care for the industry.
State and Local Affiliates
Please remember to use your state or local apartment association as the primary resource for the most up-to-date information on your responsibilities. Find your local affiliate.
State Legal and Regulatory Information
We highly suggest you contact a local attorney before you decide to initiate an eviction action against a resident in the current environment as overlaying federal, state and county laws or restrictions on the judicial process may apply. This includes: issuing a notice to vacate, initiating any eviction-related action, or assessing fees or penalties on residents for nonpayment of rent or other lease violations. In addition to the below, you can access NAA's statutory information on late fees, eviction laws and other policy issues.
Delaware is in Phase 2 of its economic reopening plan. According to industry specific guidance for owners of large residential apartment buildings, owners must adopt policies that:
- Clean and disinfect high-touch areas routinely in accordance with CDC guidelines, particularly in spaces that are accessible to staff, customers, tenants, or other individuals, and ensure cleaning procedures following a known or potential exposure in a facility are in compliance with CDC recommendations.
- Otherwise maintain cleaning procedures in all other areas of the facility.
- Ensure that the facility has a sufficient number of workers to perform the above protocols effectively and in a manner that ensures the safety of occupants, visitors, and workers.
Face Mask Mandate
Governor John Carney signed the Twenty Fifth Modification to the State of Emergency. The Modification takes the following actions:
- Formalizes the new face covering requirements for children,
- Requires Delaware schools to notify families if they become aware of positive cases of COVID-19 in their schools, and
- Directs the Department of Education to work with educators to develop a modified system for tracking student growth.
State of Emergency
Governor John Carney declared a state of emergency on March 12, 2020.
Status: Evictions Can Resume
- Action: The order, released on September 11, 2020, addresses case processing, evictions, and the effect of the CDC eviction moratorium. Court is proceeding on a “oldest cases first” principle. “Processes that would have been occurring concurrently have had to be re-initiated in a more methodical and time-intensive manner... every case will need to be individually scheduled for a discrete hearing time, whether it is held virtually or in person.”
- Cases Filed Before March 13, 2020: All cases will be set for a virtual pretrial conference and then a subsequent virtual trial. All notices for pretrial conferences and trials will provide information regarding accessing the hearing via Zoom as well as notice that if one or more parties cannot participate virtually, they must contact the court immediately to be scheduled for an alternate hearing venue. Virtual pretrial conferences will be scheduled as soon as is practicable. The purpose of these conferences is triage. During the pretrial conference, the judge will assess the case for potential resolution, amenability to mediation, narrowing legal or factual issues in preparation for trial, determining technological availability for the next event and informing parties of how they will receive notice for their next event.
- Cases Filed On or After July 1, 2020: To meet the requirements of the Governor’s 23rd modification order with regard to mediation, all cases initiated after July 1, 2020 will be referred directly to the Justice of the Peace Court online dispute resolution (ODR) system. If a case is unable to be resolved, mediation may take place immediately after the pre-trial conference if a mediator is available. The judge conducting the pretrial conference should not conduct the mediation in order to eliminate any confusion of the roles of judicial officer and mediator. Cases will be scheduled based upon the order in which they were received. All notices for trials will provide information regarding accessing the hearing via Zoom as well as notice that if one or more parties cannot participate virtually, they must contact the court immediately to be scheduled for an alternative hearing. Trial dates for cases initiated after July 1, 2020 will not be scheduled prior to late October 2020, at the earliest.
- Eviction Process: The Governors 23rd modification of the declaration of a state of emergency allows for filing of landlord-tenant cases, but requires that in order for an eviction to proceed, the Court must be satisfied that allowing an eviction is “in the interest of justice.” As a result, the court will require housing providers to show that “something more than the normal legal right to possession granted under the Residential Landlord-Tenant Code is required.” The order goes on to distinguish different processes for cases where a judgment was entered or pending prior March 13, 2020 and cases that were not heard prior to March 13, 2020.
- Effect of CDC Order on Evictions: The court will supplement this order with additional processes and information related to the CDC order on evictions as soon as possible. However, the court specifically states that “the protections of the order do not preclude a landlord from taking actions that preserve the landlord’s rights to future possession, including but not limited to, providing statutory notices or filing an action for possession.” Any new action for possession however must be accompanied by information indicating whether or not the tenant has invoked or attempted to invoke the protections of the order.
- Action: Actions for summary possession may be filed with respect to any residential unit in the state, but are stayed to permit the Justice of the Peace Court to determine whether the parties would benefit from participating in court supervised mediation or alternative dispute resolution, which may include appropriate housing support services, as determined by the Delaware State Housing Authority, if requested by either party of the court. Sheriffs, constables, court officers, and their agents shall refrain from acting to remove individuals from residential properties through the eviction process during the time this Order is in effect, unless the court determines on its own motion or motion of the parties that enforcement is necessary in the interest of justice. Any action for summary possession filed before the State of emergency for which no final judgment had been entered shall be further stayed as defined above.
- Exceptions: Summary possession actions based on claims of irreparable harm to person or property.
- Duration: Through the end of the state of emergency.
- COVID-19 Related Impact Requirement: No.
- Residents Responsible for Rent: Yes.
- Action: Suspension of eviction proceedings and ejectments ordered and scheduled.
- Scope: All lease violations.
- Exceptions: “Forthwith summons applications in landlord-tenant matters involving essential services and/or harm to person or property will be accepted and ruled upon” – “Case by case exceptions to these guidelines may be ordered at the discretion of the Court and with proper notice to all parties.”
- Duration: Until further notice. A comprehensive standing order related to residential eviction filings will be issued at the expiration of the Governors Executive Order implementing an eviction moratorium.
- COVID-19 Related Impact Requirement: No.
- Residents Responsible for Rent: Yes.
- Additional Commentary: The Justice of the Peace Court has also ordered that all landlord/tenant cases and ordered/scheduled evictions between March 17, 2020 and April 16, 2020 be delayed until after June 1, 2020, with exceptions for "landlord-tenant matters involving essential services and/or harm to persons or property."
Rental Assistance/Housing Provider Assistance
On March 26, 2020, Gov. Carney and the Delaware State Housing Authority established a $2.5 million Housing Assistance Fund for renters experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19.
Renters must make 80% below the area median income for their respective county to be eligible and can apply for up to $1,500 in support that will be paid directly to their housing provider or utility provider.
On August 9, 2020, state leaders announced that $40 million in assistance is now available for those most affected.
With the relaunch of the Delaware Housing Assistance Program and through the Delaware Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program up to $5,000 of assistance can support qualified households and renters. If applications are approved, payments due for rent or mortgages will be sent directly to landlords or servicer banks, not individuals.
The state of Delaware and New Castle County will each contribute $20 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to support maintaining places of residence.
Housing applicants must be Delaware residents with a maximum household income at or below 60% of the area median income for the county in which they reside, according to the news release. More information on the COVID-19 rental and mortgage assistance programs is available online at destatehousing.com/covid19. Landlords and property owners can submit applications on behalf of their tenants online.
No rent freeze is in effect at the state or local level. There is no statute preempting local rent regulation.
Delaware does not have statutory language regulating price gouging during declarations of emergency.