Delaware Tenant Screening
Last Updated: January 22, 2015
Delaware is in the northeastern portion of the Delmarva Peninsula and is the second smallest, the sixth least populous, but the sixth most densely populated of the 50 United States. Delaware is divided into three counties, the lowest number of counties of any state.
How to Screen a Tenant in Delaware
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Step 1: Know Your Rights & Responsibilities
Landlords and property managers are subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act [PDF] (FCRA) during the tenant screening process. Additionally, Delaware has laws that affect the tenant screening process. You can find the current Delaware Housing Codes on the Delaware State Legislature website. If you are finding the formalities of the state code daunting, you might want to check out these friendlier sites:
- Overview of Landlord-Tenant Laws in Delaware
- Attorney General’s Summary Of Delaware Residential Landlord Tenant Code
Recent Law Changes
Governor Jack Markell signed several landlord-tenant bills that took effect between June 27th and August 30th 2013. Changes include Surety Bond Options, Tenant responsibilities concerning Smoke/Carbon Detectors, the display of American flags, and the Death of a tenant. This article summarizes those Delaware landlord-tenant law changes.
Step 2: Required Forms & Disclosures
Tip: before you rent for the first time, consider hiring a lawyer to review all of the documents you will use during the application and rental process to ensure that you are protected to the fullest extent of the law.
- Rental Application [PDF] (this must be completed in full by the applicant prior to screening)
- Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act [PDF]
- Consumer Report Disclosure [PDF]
If you are ACCEPTING an applicant:
- Move-In Checklist [PDF]
- Lease Agreement (written), containing or attaching the following information:
- Owner/Agent Identity – this should include name and address, and if the owner/agent is out-of-state it must include contact information for a resident of the COUNTY in which the rental is located that can act as an agent for the purposes of serving notices and process.
- Security Deposit – this must include the amount of the deposit and the conditions under which some or all of the deposit may be withheld. It must also include the name and banking institution holding the deposit.
- Non-refundable Fees – explicitly describe any non-refundable fees, and state clearly that they are non-refundable.
- Fire Protection & Safety Information: You must disclose the available fire protection and safety information specific to the unit you are renting, including smoking policy, evacuation plans, and who to notify in case of emergency.
- Owner Or Agent Identity: In Delaware, on each written rental agreement, the landlord must prominently disclose the names and usual business addresses of all persons who are owners of the rental unit or the property of which the rental unit is a part, or the names and business addresses of their appointed resident agents. (25 Del. Code Ann. 5105)
- Summary Of Landlord-Tenant Law: A summary of the Landlord-Tenant Code, as prepared by the Consumer Protection Unit of the Attorney General’s Office or its successor agency, must be given to the new tenant at the beginning of the rental term. If the landlord fails to provide the summary, the tenant may plead ignorance of the law as a defense. (25 Del. Code Ann. 5118)
- Mold: In May 2001, the Delaware Supreme Court upheld a $1 million verdict (reduced by 22% for contributory negligence) in favor of two tenants of an apartment complex who claimed that mold growth in their apartments resulting from water leakage had caused respiratory problems and cognitive impairments. In addition, the Delaware Supreme Court rejected the landlord’s contention that the testimony of the tenants’ expert witnesses should be excluded as scientifically unreliable. Toxic Mold Litigation
If you are DECLINING an applicant:
- Adverse Action Notice [PDF]
Step 3: Order a Tenant Screening Report
What You’ll Need
- A completed rental application signed by the applicant.
- Some details about your applicant:
- Email address
- Date of birth
- Social Security number
- Previous address
- Bank account number (optional)
- Bank routing number (optional)
What Will Be Covered
- Package Options
- Background Report Coverage for Delaware:
- Criminal, OFAC/Patriot Act & Sex Offender Records – A nationwide search is always performed. These jurisdictions specifically are available in Delaware: DE Sex Offender Registry.
- Eviction Records – records are available from the following counties: Kent, New Castle, Sussex.
- Bankruptcies, Liens & Judgments – records are available from the following counties: Kent, New Castle, Sussex.
- Social Security Number validation, Death Index, credit checks, previous addresses, alias names, and the Rent Check Advisor include all information available regardless of location.
Resources for Delaware Landlords
- Delaware State Bar Association Attorney Search
- Delaware Courts Directory
- Law Enforcement Agencies in Delaware (Wikipedia)