Too often, renters in Delaware are faced with an eviction notice that threatens their homes, their families, and their well-being. Even more often, the people facing eviction are left to navigate that legal hurdle by themselves. In Delaware, 86% of landlords have legal representation in court eviction proceedings, but only 2% of renters have representation.
Senate Bill 1, introduced in January 2023 by Senator Bryan Townsend, creates a right to representation for low-income renters in eviction actions. This proposed legislation could be a lifeline for renters in Delaware — it would offer a more level playing field between landlords and renters by providing representation in eviction proceedings for renters who can’t afford that kind of help, and in turn, could help more landlords receive the money they’re owed by renters who have fallen behind in their financial commitment.
The introduction of SB 1, comes after SB 101, orginally introduced during the 2021 legislative session, was defeated in 2022 by a House vote of 16-23- despite being a common-sense bill with a wide range of support in the General Assembly.
As Delaware grapples with the effects of an ongoing pandemic and evictions ramp up across the state, renters are facing evictions without the help they desperately need to connect to resources, delay evictions, and stay in their homes. Despite its loss in the 2021-2022 legislative session, our goal remains the same: to pass right-to-representation legislation in 2023, so Delaware can join the growing list of states and cities that are putting protections in place to help keep more people in their homes and reduce rates of homelessness.
Partners on this effort include
- ACLU National
- ACLU of Delaware
- Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (CLASI)
- Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCADV)
- Delaware Federation of Housing Counselors
- Delaware Volunteer Legal Services, Inc. (DVLS)
- Housing Alliance Delaware
- Lutheran Community Services
- Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League’s Building
- NeighborGood Partners
- People Power Housing, Opportunity, Mobility, Equity, and Stability Campaign (H.O.M.E.S.)
- Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice
Our campaign goals
Through our efforts, we seek to:
- Pass SB 1: legislation that would implement and fund the right to representation for covered individuals at risk of eviction.
- Ensure renters are aware of their right to representation in eviction proceedings.
- Keep at-risk families and renters remaining in their homes during the pandemic and beyond through safeguards like applying for rental assistance and delaying or preventing eviction when possible.
Senate Bill 1
Sponsored by Senator Bryan Townsend
On January 19, 2023, Senator Bryan Townsend introduced SB 1, a bill to implement a statewide right to representation for renters facing eviction. This timely legislation provides a statewide right to representation for renters facing eviction, and establishes protections that will help keep renters in their homes.
What the right to representation legislation does
- Creates a right to representation for low-income renters facing eviction whose household income is lower than 200% of federal poverty guidelines.
- Requires landlords to provide notice of the right to representation at certain designated intervals of a tenancy and in eviction proceedings.
- Exempts small landlords who own three or fewer units and are not represented by a lawyer or agent.
- Creates an Eviction Diversion Program designed to help resolve payment or other issues after a landlord files for eviction, which will be run by the Justice of the Peace (“JP”) Court.
- Enables the Attorney General to contract with appropriate legal service organizations to provide representation in proceedings covered by the bill.
- Places coordination of the program with Delaware Volunteer Legal Services, which will manage the contracts and work with community organizations to do outreach regarding the right to representation.
Free Legal Assistance for Delaware Tenants in Eviction and Loss of Public Housing/Housing Voucher Cases
If you are facing eviction or loss of your housing subsidy (voucher), you may have the right to FREE legal representation from one of Delaware’s three non-profit legal assistance organizations.
Note: As this new program phases in, priority is given to low-income tenants who live in the below zip codes. Even if you don’t live in one of these zip codes, please contact us to see if you are eligible.
Share your eviction story
If you've been evicted or had an eviction filed against you, we want to hear about your experience navigating evictions filings, court, and/or the eviction process. Share your story to help level the playing field and get tenants the right to legal representation for eviction defense.