How Do I Know What Type of Claim to File?

The Justice of the Peace Court handles four basic types of civil cases which are described below.

Debt Actions

A debt action is a claim for a sum of money. Examples of debt actions include money claimed on a loan, money claimed for purchases made, money claimed because work for which payment has been made was not completed or properly done, money claimed for unpaid rent, security deposits not returned, etc.

Trespass Actions RESPASS ACTIONS

A civil trespass action involves the wrongful, intentional, or negligent actions of a person that resulted in damage to another's property. For example, damages caused by an improper act of another person may involve an automobile as a result of a traffic accident, to a home, lawn, bicycle, or to any other personal property. Information describing the incident, the type and amount of damage, how the damages were calculated, and how the Defendant's conduct was improper must be stated in the complaint filed with the Court or in a letter attached to the complaint.

Please note that the Justice of the Peace Court cannot hear actions involving personal injuries, mental anguish, etc.

Replevin Actions

A replevin action may be filed by a person to get back an article or item of personal property that is being withheld from them by another person. A detailed description, serial number and value of the personal property must be included with the complaint.

Landlord/Tenant (Summary Possession) Actions

This action may be filed by the landlord for possession of a rented property because of unpaid rent or abuse and misuse of the rented property. If the landlord is seeking back rent along with possession of the unit, this claim may be included in the summary possession action. However, if the landlord is seeking back rent only and not possession of the unit, a debt action should be filed. Tenants may also file a landlord/tenant action if they have been wrongfully kept out of the rented property. However, a claim for the return of a security deposit only should be filed as a debt action.

Before the action may be filed by a landlord, notice in writing must be given or sent to the Tenant by the landlord. This notice must state that the tenant as at least five days to pay the rent or at least seven days to correct the abuse or misuse (ten days, if a mobile home) and that if the tenant does not do so as instructed, a suit for possession may be filed with the Court.

Summary Possession actions may involve either residential or commercial units, as well as mobile homes.

For more information see the booklet, How to File and Defend a Summary Possession Action in the State of Delaware and the Landlord-Tenant Code and/or Mobile Homes Lots and Leases Act, as appropriate.