The Delaware Code Title 25 Chapter 53 Section 5312 outlines the following restrictions of which landlords have to abide regarding utility services for residential tenants:
Metering and Charges for Utility Services
(a) A landlord may install, operate and maintain meters or other appliances for measurement to determine the consumption of utility services by each rental unit. Only if the rental agreement so provides, and in compliance with this section, may a landlord charge a tenant separately for the utility services as measured by such meter or other appliance. With the exception of metering systems already in use prior to July 17, 1996, a landlord shall not separately charge a tenant for any utility service, unless such utility service is separately metered. The metering system may be inspected by and must be approved by the Division of Weights and Measures.
(b) No landlord shall require that any tenant contract directly with the provider of a utility service for service to a tenant or to a rental unit, unless such rental unit is separately metered. No landlord who purchases utility services in bulk shall charge any tenant individually for utility services, unless such utility services are either individually metered or the cost of such services is included as part of each monthly rental payment, as provided for in the rental agreement.
(c) A landlord who charges a tenant separately for utility services under this section shall not charge the tenant an amount for such services which exceeds the actual cost of the utility service as determined by the cost of the service charged by the provider to the landlord or to any company owned in whole or in part by the landlord.
(d) Any tenant who is charged and who pays for utility services separately to the landlord shall be entitled to inspect the bills and records upon which such charges were calculated, during the landlord’s regular business hours at the landlord’s regular business office. A landlord shall retain such bills and records for 1 year from the date upon which tenants were billed.
(e) Charges for utility services made by a landlord to a tenant shall be considered rent for all purposes under this Code. With respect to security deposits, and unless the rental agreement otherwise provides, the rights and obligations of the parties as to payment and nonpayment of utility charges shall be enforced in the same manner as the rights and obligations of the parties relating to payment and nonpayment of rent. A landlord shall not discontinue or terminate utility service for nonpayment of rent, utility charges or other breach.
(f) A landlord who charges separately for utilities in accordance with this section shall bill the tenant for such charges not less frequently than monthly, and shall use reasonable efforts to obtain actual readings of meters or appliances for measurements, which readings shall reasonably coincide with the landlord’s bulk billing. If, despite reasonable effort, a landlord is unable to obtain an actual reading, the landlord may estimate the tenant’s utility consumption and bill the tenant for such estimated amount; provided however, that a landlord may not send more than 2 consecutive estimated billings. Notwithstanding the foregoing, an actual reading shall be made upon the commencement of the lease and at the expiration or termination of the lease.
(g) (1) A landlord, upon request by a tenant, shall cause to be examined or tested the meter or appliance for measurement. If the meter or appliance so tested or examined is found to be accurate within commercially reasonable limits, the costs and expenses of such test or examination shall be paid by the tenant as additional rent; but if the meter or appliance is found to be not accurate, then such costs and expenses shall be borne by the landlord, who shall forthwith replace the inaccurate meter or other appliance.
(2) In addition to those rights and powers vested by law in the Consumer Protection Unit of the Attorney General’s office or its successor agency, the Attorney General’s office may enter, by and through its agents, experts or examiners, upon any premises for the purpose of making the examination and tests provided for in this section, and may set up and use on such premises any apparatus and appliances necessary therefor.
Landlord is not a Public Utility
(h) A landlord who installs, operates and maintains meters or other appliances for measurement and who bills tenants separately for utilities, shall not be deemed a public utility, nor shall the Public Service Commission have any authority, power or jurisdiction over such landlords or their practices in connection with the installation, operation and maintenance of meters or other appliances for measurement, the reading of meters, calculation and determination of charges for utility services or otherwise. The Consumer Protection Unit of the Attorney General’s office shall have authority to enforce this section.
Separate Meter not Required for Flat Rate Utilities
(i) The requirement of separate metering set forth in this section shall not apply to charges for utility services that are not calculated based on consumption. If the rental agreement so provides, a landlord may pass on to the tenant the actual cost of such utility services, as determined by the cost for such service charged to the landlord or to any company owned in whole or in part by the landlord, or, if permitted by the local government unit or public utility, a landlord may require the tenant contract directly with the local government unit or public utility for service to the tenant or rental unit. A landlord may prorate or apportion charges for such utility services among units in a multi-unit or apartment building, provided the total charged to all units does not exceed the actual cost of the utility services charged to the landlord. A landlord may bill a tenant for such utility services monthly or quarterly as set forth in the rental agreement, and a tenant who pays for utility services pursuant to this subsection shall be entitled to inspect the bills and records upon which such charges were calculated as set forth in subsection (d) of this section.
Del. Code § 5312.
See also Delaware Landlord Must Provide Essential Services.
Return to Delaware Landlord-Tenant Laws.