In Rhode Island, along with other states, a lease agreement is valid wherever there is an agreement to exchange rent for occupying a property. According to Rhode Island law (Residential Landlord and Tenant Act Ch. 18-34), this agreement allows the tenant to certain rights, such as the right to a habitable dwelling and the right to take at least two forms of alternative actions.
Landlords also have rights, including the right to collect payment of rent in a timely manner and the right to proceed with formal eviction pending a lease violation or nonpayment of rent.
Note: These rights exist regardless of a rental agreement stating otherwise.
Landlord Responsibilities in Rhode Island
In Rhode Island, landlords must provide a clean and habitable dwelling and make requested repairs in a “reasonable” amount of time, though “reasonable” is not defined by the law. If they do not, the tenants may take w forms of alternative action. They can withhold rent or they can make the repairs themselves and deduct the cost from rent.
Here is a list of essential amenities that landlords are or are not responsible for in Rhode Island.
|Clean common areas (for multi-unit buildings)||Yes|
|Electrical wiring and outlets||Yes|
|Garbage receptacle and removal||Yes|
Landlords may not evict a tenant in retaliation for exercising their housing rights (i.e. filing a health and safety complaint with the local housing authority).
Tenant Responsibilities in Rhode Island
In addition to paying rent in a timely manner, Rhode Island tenants must:
- Keep the unit safe and habitable
- Remove garbage and keep fixtures sanitary
- Make small repairs and maintenance
- Not disturb other tenants or neighbors
Evictions in Rhode Island
Rhode Island law empowers landlords to evict tenants for the following reasons:
- Nonpayment of rent – If a tenant fails to pay rent, then the landlord may issue a 5-Day Notice to Pay or Quit after the state-mandated 15 day grace period. If the tenant still does not pay, then the landlord may pursue formal eviction.
- Lease violation – If a lease violation occurs, then the landlord may issue a 20-Day Notice to Cure or Quit. If the terms of the lease are not met within 21 days, then the landlord may pursue formal eviction.
- Illegal acts – Rhode Island landlords are empowered to evict tenants immediately if they have documentation of illegal drugs use, sale or criminally violent actions occurring on the property.
At-will tenants without a lease are entitled to at least 10, 30, or 90 days’ notice, depending on if they rent on a weekly, monthly, or rarely basis, respectively. It is illegal for Rhode Island landlords to evict tenants in retaliation or for discriminatory reasons.
Security Deposits in Rhode Island
- Standard Limit/Maximum Amount – 1 month’s rent.
- Time Limit for Returns – 20 days.
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – If a Rhode Island landlord wrongfully withholds rent then they may be liable to return the deposit and pay a court-mandated penalty.
- Allowable Deductions – Unpaid rent, damages that exceed normal wear and tear, cleaning expenses, trash removal.
Lease Termination in Rhode Island
Notice requirements. If a Rhode Island tenant on a periodic lease wishes to terminate that lease, they must give the following amounts of notice:
|Rent Payment Frequency||Notice Needed|
Early termination. Rhode Island tenants may legally break a lease early for the following reasons:
- Early termination clause
- Active military duty
- Landlord harassment
- Advanced age or health issues
Rhode Island landlords must make a reasonable effort to re-rent a unit.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in Rhode Island
- Rent control. Rhode Island neither enforces nor prohibits rent control. As such, landlords may currently charge whatever they wish in rent but it’s possible that local jurisdictions could instate rent control policies.
- Rental increases. Rhode Island landlords are not limited in rent increases but they must give at least 30 days’ notice before increasing rent. Tenants over 62 years of age must receive 60 days’ notice.
- Rent-related fees. Late fees are not limited by the state, as long as fees are clearly laid out in the leasing agreement. Return check fees are limited to no less than $200 but no more than $1,000. The fee is equal to a $25 base fee plus three times the check’s face value.
Housing Discrimination in Rhode Island
Protected groups. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against tenants on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, familial status, religion, or disability. These rules do not apply to owner-occupied homes or homes operated by religious organizations. Rhode Island state adds extra protections for tenants on the basis of age, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, and domestic abuse victim status.
Discriminatory acts & penalties. The state’s civil rights laws are overseen and enforced by the Rhode Island Human Rights Commission. They have outlined the following behaviors as potentially discriminatory when directed at a member of a protected class:
- Refusing to rent, sell, or negotiate housing
- Falsely denying unit availability
- “Steering” tenants towards or away from certain units or neighborhoods
- Setting different terms or conditions
- Advertising that indicates a discriminatory preference
- Failing to make reasonable accommodations
If a tenant is the victim of housing discrimination, they can file an Intake Questionnaire on the Commission’s website.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Rhode Island
Landlord Right to Entry in Rhode Island
Rhode Island landlords must give at least 2 days’ notice before entering an inhabited property and the entry must occur at a reasonable time of day. Landlords may enter without permission in the case of emergencies.
Small Claims Court in Rhode Island
Rhode Island small claims court will hear rent-related disputes valued up to $2,500 or less but will not hear eviction cases. Contracts in Rhode Island have a 10-year statute of limitations.
Mandatory Disclosures in Rhode Island
Rhode Island landlords only have to make 2 mandatory disclosures:
- Lead-based paint. Landlords that own homes built before 1978 must provide information about concentrations of lead paint.
- Authorized agents. Landlords must also provide the names and addresses of those involved in managing the property.
Changing the Locks in Rhode Island
Rhode Island law has little to say on the subject of changing locks. As such, tenants may change locks if they get landlord permission beforehand. Rhode Island landlords are forbidden from unilaterally changing the locks on a tenant as a form of eviction (i.e. “lockouts”).
Local Laws in Rhode Island
Providence Landlord Tenant Rights
Providence is in the process of passing a law that would ban discrimination against tenants on the basis of their legal source of income. Tenants in the city should keep an eye on the city’s website for further developments.
heck your local county and municipality for additional landlord tenant regulations.