Landlords and tenants in Delaware now have a new way to handle rental disputes without coming into court. Experts say this new resource couldn’t have come at a better time.
The Delaware courts have a backlog of 2,500 rent-related cases, and some of those are scheduled well into the new year. That, combined with the eviction moratorium ending December 31, causes a headache for Delaware’s court system. However, the state’s new Online Dispute Resolution system may offer some relief.
“So something like this will be very significant in trying to work through those cases efficiently, quickly, and to both sides benefit,” says Cynthia DePue, Executive Director at Legal Services Co. of Delaware.
A New Way to Handle Rental Disputes
The Justice of the Peace Court launched this Online Dispute Resolution system to handle the tremendous backlog of landlord and tenant cases in Delaware. The people involved get a chance to talk about their dispute instead of heading to court right away.
Marianne Kennedy, Court Administrator for the Justice of the Peace Court of Delaware, explains what the system includes:
- how much do they owe,
- what’s the issue with payment,
- what kind of information can they share about their current situation to help move them a little closer to a resolution.
Gives Landlords and Tenants a Chance to Find Resources
Not only does this forum handle disputes quickly, but the courts’ involvement with the Delaware Housing Authority also gives landlords and tenants a chance to find resources to gather potential funding for rental help.
“We’re doing everything we can to get the word out to say, you know there’s help, there’s help from the court, there’s help from Delaware Housing, we’re working with Delaware Legal Aid and CLASI,” says Kennedy.
Many of these cases result from the lasting effects of COVID, and officials tell us that they want to make sure families don’t end up homeless, especially during this time.
DePue says, “this does help smooth and streamline the process and get the people together very quickly and efficiently. So I don’t see this going away. If anything, I think it will continue”
Any cases filed on or after July 1, 2020, are required to go through this process before a judge hears their case. Eventually, the courts hope to use this system for debt actions such as small claims and traffic cases.
For more information about landlord-tenant disputes, you can contact 302-575-0408 or visit www.lscd.com.
Another solution exists: mediation, an option all parties should consider in any landlord-tenant dispute, is mediation. It is free and a quick way for the parties to reach a mutually acceptable result if they want to avoid litigation. Mediation is informal and can be quickly scheduled and heard. It often helps a situation where the parties hope or expect to continue an agreement or relationship. Trained mediators are available in all three counties at no charge for all types of landlord-tenant disputes. For more information on mediation, contact:
New Castle County: Delaware Center for Justice (302-658-7174)
Kent and Sussex Counties: County: Center for Community Justice (302-424-0890)
2700 Kirkwood Highway
Newark, DE 19711
(302) 995-2550 fax
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