COVID-19 Legal FAQs for Renters in
This page has local legal information on residential (not commercial) renters’ issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not legal advice, and you should check with your local legal aid and courts for current information. Your local city or county may have additional protections for renters.
This page was last updated on July 8, 2020. It was reviewed by our volunteer attorney experts.
Its information is taken from these sources:Gov. order on evictionsDelaware courts orderPrinceton Eviction Lab's COVID Policy ScorecardsColumbia Law School COVID-19 Eviction Moratoria analysisEnergy and Policy Institute Utility Disconnect TrackerDelaware courts extension order 4/23Gov. 2nd extension of order
- Are there any special protections for renters during the emergency? How long do they last?
Yes, New Orders are being issued with details to follow over the coming days.
You may also be eligible for national protections, read more below to see if you are.
- What do the protections mean for renters?
The protection means that through the end of the emergency in Delaware:
- Your landlord can still give you a notice to quit or a 5-day notice.
- Your landlord cannot file a new eviction claim against you.
- Hearings on eviction cases that have already been filed are suspended.
- The court cannot issue a new order, judgment, or writ of eviction against you.
- Law enforcement cannot enforce an existing eviction order against you, to remove you from your home.
- There are restrictions on late fees that landlords can charge renters.
- Do I still have to pay rent during the emergency?
Yes, Delaware renters still need to pay rent during the emergency.
You cannot be evicted for nonpayment of rent during the emergency. Your landlord also cannot charge you late fees. But if you do not pay your rent, after the emergency ends, unless the law changes, your landlord may be able to evict you for rent that you did not pay during the emergency.
Also check with your local city or county government to see if they give renters any additional protections if they are struggling to pay rent during the emergency.
If you cannot pay rent, take steps to protect yourself:
- Communicate with your landlord: Send a written letter or email to your landlord as soon as possible. You can also try to negotiate with your landlord to make a payment plan or get a temporary rent reduction. Get help here for drafting and mailing a letter to your landlord. You can also use this letter-writing tool here.
- Get written records of all communication: Keep copies of any letter or email you send, and any responses from the landlord. Keep receipts for any payments you make, that are signed and dated. If you make a payment plan or rent agreement, make sure to get it in writing.
- If you received a 5 day letter and did not pay the amount within the time period set out in the letter, be extremely careful about paying. Understand that if you just pay after the five days have run out, the landlord may still be able to evict you.
- Keep proof of COVID-19’s impact on you: Collect documents about your COVID-19-related employment problems, health care issues, or other issues that affect your ability to pay rent. This includes letters from your employer, doctor, insurance provider, child care provider, schools, etc.
- Check for help: If you need financial assistance for housing costs, you may be able to get help.
- Can my landlord evict me during the emergency?
New orders are being issued with updates to come over the coming days.
If you receive a notice to quit from your landlord, or an eviction lawsuit, reach out for legal help.
- Can my utilities be shut off during the emergency?
No. The Delaware Governor's Executive Order prohibits utility shut offs for the duration of the emergency. Utilities include electricity, gas, propane, phone, water, cable, and internet services.
If you need financial assistance for utility costs, you may be able to get help.
Landlords are never allowed to shut off a renter's utilities in an attempt to force the renter out. This is illegal. Reach out to a lawyer for help if this happens to you.
- Are you eligible for U.S. national protections against eviction?
Renters in 3 categories have special national protections against being evicted during the Emergency Period of March 27, 2020 to July 24 or 25, 2020. These national protections add onto any state and local protections you have.
Do you fit in any of these 3 categories?Your home’s owner has a federally backed mortgage loan or other guarantee (like through Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae). Search if your home is covered.You pay rent through a federal assistance program like the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, Rural Development Voucher, or other 'covered housing' program.You live in Public Housing, where the government is your landlord.
If you are a renter in one of these 3 categories, the federal CARES Act section 4024 gives you these protections. (Remember, these protections add onto any state and local protections you have)
- Your landlord cannot file a new eviction lawsuit against you for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period. They can still evict you for other behavior, like drug abuse, other criminal activities, or other lease violations.
- Your landlord cannot charge you new fees or penalties for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period.
- After the Emergency Period ends, your landlord may not be able to evict you immediately.(Different states interpret the protections ending on July 24 or 25. Check with local lawyers to see about your state). If you have not paid your rent in full during the Emergency Period, your landlord must wait until the period ends before giving you a notice to vacate. For example, they may give you a notice on July 26, and you must be allowed until at least August 25 to leave the property.