The stipulations for providing utilities in Delaware are pretty standard among most states. Prearranged division of utility payments are decided, and within 3 days the tenant should arrange for all utilities that they are responsible for provided that said utilities are separately metered on the property (i.e. many detached residences) or the utility services are not calculated based upon consumption. If the utility is neither of these types, you, the landlord, cannot require that your tenant contact the utility provider directly to arrange for direct payment.

Where the law becomes distinct is the landlord’s failure to provide essential services, which are defined as hot water, heat, water, and electricity. If you fail to provide any of these services or fail to remedy a condition that materially deprives the tenant of a substantial part of the lease agreement and such failure continues for 48 hours after the tenant has given actual or written notice to you, the tenant may do any of the following:

  • Upon written notice of the continuation of the problem to the landlord, immediately terminate the agreement;
  • Upon written notice to the landlord, keep two-thirds per-diem rent (meaning two-thirds of the rent per day) for any period during which essential services or equivalent substitute housing are not provided.
  • Upon notice to the landlord, procure equivalent substitute housing for as long as heat, water, hot water, or electricity is not supplied; and the landlord shall be liable for any additional expense incurred by the tenant up to one-half of the amount of abated rent. This may only be applied if the tenant has given proper notice and has attempted one of the two above options while essential services are still not provided.

In the case that you, the landlord, file an action for summary possession because your tenant wrongfully withheld rent or deducted money from their rent payment and the court sides in your favor, you will be entitled to receive either possession of the premises or an amount equal to the amount wrongfully withheld. If your tenant knowingly and purposefully withheld rent wrongfully, you are entitled to double the amount wrongfully withheld.