In Delaware, 86% of landlords are have representation from an attorney or agent in evictions court, but only 2% of tenants do. Tenants facing eviction are left to navigate this legal hurdle by themselves, without official counsel or legal assistance in a system that’s designed to protect landlords, not the tenants who rely on them for a safe, secure place to live.
Delaware has an opportunity to level the playing field by securing the right to counsel for eviction defense statewide. SB 101 would create a right to legal counsel for eviction defense for covered individuals, subject to a 3 year phase-in period. This legislation covers tenants whose household income is not greater than 200% of federal poverty guidelines. SB 101 also does the following:
- Requires landlords to provide notice of the right to counsel at certain designated intervals of a tenancy and in eviction proceedings.
- Creates an Eviction Diversion Program designed to help resolve payment or other issues prior to a landlord filing for eviction.
- Prohibits landlords from filing for eviction unless the tenant owes at least one month's rent or $500 — whichever is greater — and prohibits landlords from continuing an eviction action if the tenant pays all rent due.
- Allows tenants to stay in their home if they pay all back rent, fees, and costs prior to an eviction.
- Provides COVID-19 speficic relief for certain tenants whose evictions were stayed "in the interests of justice" during the pandemic, per Governor Carney's Emergency Declaration.