Avoiding disputes takes skill, communication and professionalism
The tenant who ignores the no-pet rule and is behind on rent. The landlord who won’t fix the broken door or who refuses to refund a deposit. These are common landlord-tenant disputes that cause both parties stress, money and confusion. What are their legal and contractual rights?
Enter a landlord-tenant attorney, who has a solid background in property management law. A qualified attorney can review contracts and quickly address potentially costly scenarios, nipping problems in the bud. He or she can also handle tenant or landlord cases when they do arise.
“Many problems can be successfully settled early—without the cost of going to court—if you seek professional help,”says Georgetown attorney Manaen S. “Robbie” Robinson IV, an associate with the Law Office of Kim DeBonte
With today’s mounting foreclosures and the poor housing market, renting has become increasingly attractive—both for those looking for a residence and for those who can’t sell a second home or need the income.
Landlord-tenant filings in Delaware rose by almost 10 percent from 2006 to 2008, according to news reports. Many cases involve negligent tenants who reneg on their obligations and property owners who charge unlawful fees. Increased competition in the rental market coupled with rising unemployment and increased utility rates create a tense situation in the landlord-tenant relationship.
Clearly, tenants and landlords must protect themselves. “Too often, neither the tenant nor the landlord thoroughly reviews the Delaware landlord-tenant code,” Robinson says. “Contracts, meanwhile, might have flaws, and neither party understands their rights.”
The Law Office of Kim DeBonte is one of the few in Georgetown to work on landlord-tenant cases. “We often find ways to use the code to our clients’ advantage,” says Robinson, a native Sussex Countian and son of former Millsboro Police Chief Manaen S. Robinson III.
Founded in 2004, the Law Office of Kim DeBonte offers quality service in a variety of legal areas throughout Delaware. The firm offers potential clients the same resources as many large firms, without sacrificing the personalized focus, attention and availability of a small hometown office.
Since joining DeBonte, he has used the Delaware Landlord-Tenant Code to rectify various situations. Robinson has helped landlords evict tenants who violate their agreements. He’s also assisted tenants who suffer from inhabitable conditions caused by absentee or negligent property owners.
“We are highly-skilled litigators who zealously represent our clients’ interests,” says Kim DeBonte. “We take the time to communicate with our clients, helping them understand every step of the process.”
Tenants can best protect themselves by thoroughly reviewing the property for any problems before moving. It’s also important that they ask around about the reputation of the prospective property owner and review the lease closely.
Robinson offers the following tips to landlords:
- View your job as one that requires time and attention. Renting does not necessarily deliver a passive income. Stay vigilant.
- Avoid using a template or generic lease agreement.Develop a detailed agreement that clearly spells out the roles and responsibilities of both parties involved in a landlord-tenant relationship. Seek a lawyer’s advice to make sure everything is properly addressed.
- Learn to select qualified tenants by reviewing the application, checking credit history and references.
- Keep thorough records for each property, including all maintenance records.
- Conduct annual inspections to assess the property for needed repairs and improvements. Don’t forget your obligation to also change the batteries of all the smoke detectors in the property.
For more information on the Law Office of Kim DeBonte, or to contact Robinson, visit debontelaw.com or call (302) 856-7570.