The Delaware Code Title 25 Chapter 55 Section 5514 outlines the following requirements for collecting and returning a security deposit (including pet deposits) for residential rental property:
(a) (1) A landlord may require the payment of security deposit.
(2) No landlord may require a security deposit in excess of 1 month’s rent where the rental agreement is for 1 year or more.
(3) No landlord may require a security deposit in excess of 1 month’s rent (with the exception of federally-assisted housing regulations), for primary residential tenancies of undefined terms or month to month where the tenancy has lasted 1 year or more. After the expiration of 1 year, the landlord shall immediately return, as a credit to the tenant, any security deposit amount in excess of 1 month’s rent, including such amount which when combined with the amount of any surety bond is in excess of 1 month’s rent.
(4) The security deposit limits set forth above shall not apply to furnished rental units.
Handling of Security Deposit
(b) Each security deposit shall be placed by the landlord in an escrow bank account in a federally-insured banking institution with an office that accepts deposits within the State. Such account shall be designated as a security deposits account and shall not be used in the operation of any business by the landlord. The landlord shall disclose to the tenant the location of the security deposit account. The security deposit principal shall be held and administered for the benefit of the tenant, and the tenant’s claim to such money shall be prior to that of any creditor of the landlord, including, but not limited to, a trustee in bankruptcy, even if such money is commingled.
(c) The purpose of the security deposit shall be:
(1) To reimburse the landlord for actual damages caused to the premises by the tenant which exceed normal wear and tear, or which cannot be corrected by painting and ordinary cleaning; and/or
(2) To pay the landlord for all rental arrearage due under the rental agreement, including late charges and rental due for premature termination or abandonment of the rental agreement by the tenant; and/or
(3) To reimburse the landlord for all reasonable expenses incurred in renovating and rerenting the premises caused by the premature termination of the rental agreement by the tenants, which includes termination pursuant to § 5314 of this title, providing that reimbursement caused by termination pursuant to § 5314 of this title shall not exceed 1 month’s rent.
(d) Where a tenant is required to pay a fee to determine the tenant’s credit worthiness, such fee is an application fee. A landlord may charge an application fee, not to exceed the greater of either 10 percent of the monthly rent for the rental unit or $50, to determine a tenant’s credit worthiness. The landlord shall, upon receipt of any money paid as an application fee, furnish a receipt to the tenant for the full amount paid by the tenant, and shall maintain for a period of at least 2 years, complete records of all application fees charged and amounts received for each such fee. Where the landlord unlawfully demands more than the allowable application fee, the tenant shall be entitled to damages equal to double the amount charged as an application fee by the landlord.
Returning Security Deposit
(e) If the landlord is not entitled to all or any portion of the security deposit, the landlord shall remit the security deposit within 20 days of the expiration or termination of the rental agreement.
(f) Within 20 days after the termination or expiration of any rental agreement, the landlord shall provide the tenant with an itemized list of damages to the premises and the estimated costs of repair for each and shall tender payment for the difference between the security deposit and such costs of repair of damage to the premises. Failure to do so shall constitute an acknowledgment by the landlord that no payment for damages is due. Tenant’s acceptance of a payment submitted with an itemized list of damages shall constitute agreement on the damages as specified by the landlord, unless the tenant, within 10 days of the tenant’s receipt of such tender of payment, objects in writing to the amount withheld by the landlord.
(g) Penalties. — (1) Failure to remit the security deposit or the difference between the security deposit and the amount set forth in the list of damages within 20 days from the expiration or termination of the rental agreement shall entitle the tenant to double the amount wrongfully withheld.
(2) Failure by a landlord to disclose the location of the security deposit account within 20 days of a written request by a tenant or failure by the landlord to deposit the security deposit in a federally-insured financial institution with an office that accepts deposits within the State, shall constitute forfeiture of the security deposit by the landlord to the tenant. Failure by the landlord to return the full security deposit to the tenant within 20 days from the effective date of forfeiture shall entitle the tenant to double the amount of the security deposit.
Landlord and Tenant Addresses
(h) All communications and notices, including the return of any security deposit under this section, shall be directed to the landlord at the address specified in the rental agreement and to the tenant at an address specified in the rental agreement or to a forwarding address, if provided in writing by the tenant at or prior to the termination of the rental agreement. Failure by the tenant to provide such address shall relieve the landlord of landlord’s responsibility to give notice herein and landlord’s liability for double the amount of the security deposit as provided herein, but the landlord shall continue to be liable to the tenant for any unused portion of the security deposit; provided, that the tenant shall make a claim in writing to the landlord within 1 year from the termination or expiration of the rental agreement.
(i) Pet deposits. — (1) A landlord may require a pet deposit. Damage to the rental unit caused by an animal shall first be deducted from the pet deposit. Where the pet deposit is insufficient, such damages may be deducted from the security deposit. A pet deposit is subject to subsections (b), (e), (f), (g) and (h) of this section.
(2) No landlord may require a pet deposit in excess of 1 month’s rent, regardless of the duration of the rental agreement.
(3) A landlord may require an additional deposit from a tenant with a pet, but shall not require any pet deposit from a tenant if the pet is a duly certified and trained support animal for a disabled person who is a resident of the rental unit.
Security Deposit Increase
(j) If the rental agreement so specifies, a landlord may increase the security deposit commensurate with the rent. If the increase of the security deposit will exceed 10 percent of the monthly rent, payment of the increased security deposit shall be prorated over the term of the rental agreement, except in the case of month-to-month tenancy, in which case payment of the increase shall be prorated over a period of 4 months.
Del. Code § 5514.
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