Senate Bill 101

151st General Assembly (Present)

Bill Progress

Lieu/Substituted 6/8/21
Adopted in Lieu of original; takes status of original

Bill Details

5/5/21
AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 25 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO THE RESIDENTIAL LANDLORD-TENANT CODE.
This Act creates a right to counsel for tenants in evictions and other landlord-tenant actions. Approximately 18,000 eviction cases are filed each year in the State of Delaware, and while 86% of landlords are represented by an attorney, agent, or business manager, only 2% of tenants have representation. The disruptive displacement that accompanies eviction proceedings create 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 counsel for covered individuals with household income below 200% of the federal poverty guideline for evictions and other landlord-tenant actions. A Coordinator for the program will be appointed by the Attorney General. The Coordinator will contract with legal services providers for the provision of representation in proceedings covered by this Act. Section 1 also requires the Coordinator to work with community organizations to do outreach and education regarding the right to counsel. And, landlords must provide notice of the right to counsel at periodic designated intervals in the tenancy and in eviction proceedings. Section 2 of this Act creates a monetary floor for initiation of eviction proceedings for nonpayment of rent – no action may be filed where the amount of rent owed is 1-month’s rent or less than $500, whichever is greater. It also provides that a landlord may not initiate or continue eviction proceedings for nonpayment of rent if the tenant pays and the tenant accepts all rent due. Finally, it creates a right of redemption for a tenant who pays all back rent, costs, and fees before eviction. Section 3 of this Act authorizes the creation of a residential eviction diversion program modeled after the Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program. Section 4 of this Act provides COVID-19-specific release, whereby in any action where execution was stayed based on a finding that the stay was required in the interests of justice, that a new action must be commenced if the landlord continues to seek summary possession after the Emergency Declaration is lifted. Section 5 of this Act is a severability clause. Section 6 of this Act delays the effect of this Act until 90 days after its enactment.
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