Delaware bill would null mandatory eviction clauses in multiple Delaware towns

DELAWARE –The Senate passed legislation Wednesday to prevent municipalities from requiring that landlords evict tenants based on their involvement in the justice system. 

Sponsored by Sen. Marie Pinkney and Rep. Madinah Wilson-Anton, Senate Bill 99 prohibits municipalities from requiring a “crime-free” lease agreement as a condition of tenancy or mandating eviction after a tenant or another resident or guest is arrested, convicted, or even merely accused of certain crimes.

Sen. Pinkney says the language in certain towns is so vague it could penalize having any police presence or call for service at a home, including for domestic violence, that could see the victim losing their home.

“Single women households are also disproportionately, more likely to be victims of these nuisance ordinances because they’re the ones who are having their abusers stalk them at their apartment or beat them up on their property; and that oftentimes results in those nuisance calls and they’re more likely to get evicted,” Pinkney said.

There are currently six municipalities in Delaware with “crime-free” or nuisance ordinances on their books that can result in mandatory evictions: Townsend, Smyrna, Dover, Harrington, Greenwood, and Blades.

Sen. Pinkney says these laws may prevent victims from wanting to contact authorities, fearing they may lose their homes in the process.

Delaware ACLU Director Mike Brikner says that’s why the laws have been found to be a first amendment violation and ruled unconstitutional in other states across the US.

“We have a right to petition the government to ask for help from our police departments. And so, again, oftentimes with these nuisance ordinances, we’re seeing people who get evicted because they’ve called the police themselves too many times because they’re being threatened or they’re being beaten up or they’re being stalked,” Brickner said.

Brickner tells 47ABC the nuisance orders are also ripe for racial bias, as he says nationally they are enforced more often on black and brown young people.

He tells us the ACLU often works with getting folks with criminal records expungements, but he says one thing you cannot expunge from your record as a renter is an eviction.

“Once you are evicted it makes it that much harder to find housing in the future because once you have an eviction on your record, oftentimes many landlords won’t want to rent to you or they will raise your rent potentially because they feel like they’re taking a bigger risk,” Brickner said.

Pinkney tells us towns like Dover and Smyrna said they have never enforced the measure, and that the pushback to the bill came “from the Delaware League of Local Governments, and we had outreach from the Blades Housing commissioner, who doesn’t want to see the bill removed, don’t want to see the ordinance removed, the legal local governments mostly came from it from a standpoint of we’re preempting local control by telling the municipalities what they’re not supposed to do anymore.” she said.

47ABC reached out to the Town of Blades and did not receive a response.

Pinkney says the bill is not interfering with local control, as it is not changing the charters for the town, but rather making enforcement illegal, and preventing new towns from adopting similar language in the future.

She tells us the measure will need 2 Republican legislators to pass the house to move forward.

Categories: Crime, Delaware, Local News, Local Politics