The Delaware Code Title 25 Chapter 53 Section 5302 provides the following rights for a tenant when a landlord fails to provide a fully habitable unit at the start of a lease:
Termination at the Beginning of the Term
(a) If the landlord fails to substantially conform to the rental agreement, or if there is a material noncompliance with any code, statute, ordinance or regulation governing the maintenance or operation of the premises, the tenant may, on written notice to the landlord, terminate the rental agreement and vacate the premises at any time during the first month of occupancy, so long as the tenant remains in possession in reliance on a promise, whether written or oral, by the landlord to correct all or any part of the condition or conditions which would justify termination by the tenant under this section.
(b) If the tenant remains in possession in reliance on a promise, whether written or oral, by the landlord, to correct all or any part of the condition or conditions which would justify termination by the tenant under this section; and if substantially the same act or omission which constitutes a prior noncompliance, of which prior notice was given under subsection (a) of this section, recurs within 6 months, the tenant may terminate the rental agreement upon at least 15 days’ written notice, which notice shall specify the breach and the date of termination of the rental agreement.
(c) If there exists any condition which deprives the tenant of a substantial part of the benefit or enjoyment of the tenant’s bargain, the tenant may notify the landlord in writing of the condition; and, if the landlord does not remedy the condition within 15 days, the tenant may terminate the rental agreement. The tenant must then initiate an action in the Justice of the Peace Court seeking a determination that the landlord has breached the rental agreement by depriving the tenant of a substantial part of the benefit or enjoyment of the bargain and may seek damages, including a rent deduction from the date written notice of the condition was given to the landlord.
(d) If the condition referred to in subsection (c) of this section was caused wilfully or negligently by the landlord, the tenant may recover the greater of:
(1) The difference between the rent payable under the rental agreement and all expenses necessary to obtain equivalent substitute housing for the remainder of the rental term; or
(2) An amount equal to 1 month’s rent and the security deposit.
(e) The tenant may not terminate the rental agreement for a condition caused by the want of due care by the tenant, a member of tenant’s family or any other person on the premises with the tenant’s consent. If a tenant terminates wrongfully, the tenant shall remain obligated under the rental agreement.
Del. Code § 5302.
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