Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 1
152nd General Assembly (Present)
Becomes effective upon date of signature of the Governor or upon date specified
AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 25 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO THE RESIDENTIAL LANDLORD-TENANT CODE.
This Act is a substitute for Senate Bill No. 1. Like Senate Bill No. 1, this Act creates a right to representation for tenants in evictions and other landlord-tenant actions. The disruptive displacement that accompanies eviction proceedings creates significant costs for state and local government related to shelter funding, education funding, health care provided in hospitals instead of community-based providers, transportation costs for homeless youth, and foster care. Evictions and disruptive displacement also have significant, well-documented, and long-lasting effects on the lives of individuals and families, including poorer physical and mental health, increased risk of homelessness, increased risk of employment loss, loss of personal property, damage to credit standing, and relocation into substandard housing. Further, evictions fall disproportionately on Black and Latinx families, who have also been the hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis. Section 1 of this Act establishes a right to representation for evictions and other landlord-tenant actions for covered individuals with household incomes below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. The Attorney General shall contract with legal services providers for the provision of representation in proceedings covered by this Act. The Right to Representation Coordinator will manage the contracts and work with community organizations to do outreach and education regarding the right to representation. Section 1 of this Act requires landlords to provide notice of the right to representation at periodic designated intervals in the tenancy and in eviction proceedings. Section 2 of this Act authorizes the creation of a residential eviction diversion program modeled after the Superior Court’s Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program. Section 3 of this Act is a severability clause. Section 4 of this Act makes Sections 1 and 6 effective 120 days after the Act's enactment. Section 5 of this Act makes Section 2 of this Act contingent on funding. Section 6 requires the Coordinator to provide the General Assembly with a copy of the first annual report required under § 5605 of Title 25, as contained in this Act, to determine if additional funding is needed to address the fiscal impact of the Act on the Justice of the Peace Court. This Act differs from Senate Bill No. 1 as it does all of the following: (1) Removes a judicial or administrative proceeding to remedy a violation of law related to security deposit from the list of proceedings included in a covered proceeding. (2) Replaces “covered individual” with “tenant” in the provision determining a tenant’s eligibility to be a covered individual. (3) Makes clear that a covered individual’s household income is to be determined over the immediately preceding 12 months. (4) Makes clear how to determine household income for a full-time student. (5) Tabulates the list of notices provided by a landlord that trigger a covered individual’s receipt of legal representation and further clarifies the notice related to termination of a rental agreement. (6) Provides that a designated organization may decline representation if an attorney deems the covered individual’s defense to lack merit, in addition to a determination by the attorney that an appeal lacks merit. (7) Provides that a covered individual is entitled to receive legal representation as soon as practicable after the initiation of a covered proceeding, rather than just an eviction proceeding. (8) Removes the requirement that a court, at a covered individual’s first appearance in a covered proceeding, provide a covered individual with notice of the individual’s right to, and the availability of, legal representation under this Act. This notice is intended to be provided earlier by the Right to Representation Coordinator (“Coordinator”). (9) Requires that events planned for, and information distributed to, tenants also be made available to landlords and property managers. (10) Requires that the Coordinator include a full accounting of their expenditures as part of the required annual report. (11) Provides that the Coordinator is to prepare information explaining legal representation available to tenants, provides that the information is known as “informational materials”, requires the Coordinator to prepare the informational materials in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole, and clarifies the events that require the informational materials to be provided to a tenant. (12) Clarifies the date from which actions are to be taken by the Coordinator and the Justice of the Peace Courts. (13) Makes clear that the provision of legal representation to a covered individual under Section 1 of this Act is not intended to be the sole basis for a continuance of a covered proceeding scheduled before the effective date of Section 1 of this Act for a hearing on or after the effective date of Section 1 of this Act. (14) Provides that the residential eviction diversion program includes an initial mediation conference rather than a conciliation conference. (15) Makes technical corrections, including to use the defined term “rental agreement” instead of “lease” and to insert “Delaware” before “Supreme Court” for clarity.
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