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 101, (formally SS1 for SB 101,) sponsored by Senator Bryan Townsend and Representative Melissa Minor-Brown, was introduced in 2021. This proposed legislation could be a lifeline for tenants 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.
SB 101 was a common-sense bill with a wide range of support in the General Assembly. In 2021, it passed the Senate 13-7. The bill stalled as the General Assembly left session for the year in June 2021. When the legislative session resumed in 2022, the bill was defeated by a House vote of 16-23, with Republicans and several Democrats voting against the bill.
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
- Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League’s Building People Power Housing, Opportunity, Mobility, Equity, and Stability Campaign (H.O.M.E.S.)
- ACLU National
- ACLU of Delaware
- Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (CLASI)
- Delaware Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCADV)
- Delaware Volunteer Legal Services, Inc. (DVLS)
- Housing Alliance Delaware
Our campaign goals
Through our efforts, we seek to:
- Pass SB 101: 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.
SS1 for Senate Bill 101
Sponsored by Senator Bryan Townsend
On May 4, 2021, Senator Bryan Townsend introduced SB 101, a bill to implement a statewide right to representation for tenants facing eviction. This timely legislation provides a statewide right to representation for tenants facing eviction, and establishes protections that will help keep renters in their homes.
What the right to representation legislation does
- Creates a right to legal representation for renters facing eviction whose household income is lower than 200% of federal poverty guidelines;
- Places coordination of the program within the Delaware Attorney General’s Office, who will contract with appropriate legal service organizations to provide representation in proceedings covered by the bill;
- Requires landlords to provide notice of the right to representation at certain designated intervals of a tenancy and in eviction proceedings; and,
- Creates an Eviction Diversion Program designed to help resolve payment or other issues once a landlord files for eviction; and
- Introduces a post filing mediation program and mandatory referrals to the Delaware Housing Assistance Program (DEHAP), which creates more opportunities for amicable, quick, and satisfactory resolutions of disputes in ways that keep families housed and landlords paid.