Rhode Island Security Deposit Returns and Deductions

Rhode Island Security Deposit Returns and Deductions

Last Updated: January 30, 2024 by Phil Ahn

Quick Facts Answer
Acceptable Deductions Unpaid rent

Costs of damage

Trash disposal

Cleaning costs

Charges outlined in lease

Return Deadline 20 days
Itemized Deductions Required
Penalty for Late Return 2x Deposit + Attorneys’ Fees

For laws on security deposit collections and holdings in Rhode Island, click here.

Security Deposit Deductions in Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, the following can be deducted from security deposits:

  • Unpaid rent
  • Costs of damage excluding normal wear and tear
  • Trash disposal
  • Cleaning costs
  • Other charges as outlined in the lease

    Most states, such as Rhode Island, do not have a legal limit on how much a landlord can charge for damages except that the charges must be reasonable.

    If the cost of the damages exceeds the amount of the security deposit, landlords are entitled to seek additional damages from the former tenant.

    What is Considered Normal Wear and Tear in Rhode Island?

    Rhode Island defines “Ordinary Wear and Tear” as “deterioration of the premises which is the result of the tenant’s normal non-abusive living.”

    Examples include:

    • Lightly scratched glass
    • Faded flooring
    • Lightly dirtied grout
    • Loose door handles
    • Stained bath fixtures

    Damage” is not a defined term in the Rhode Island General Laws, but is generally understood to mean destruction to the rental unit that occurs because of abuse or negligence by a tenant.

    Examples include:

    • Heavily stained, burned, or torn carpets
    • Broken tiles or windows
    • Holes in the wall
    • Missing fixtures

    Can the Landlord Charge for Replacing the Carpet in Rhode Island?

    Landlords can charge for replacing the carpet if it is damaged beyond ordinary wear and tear.


    A carpet that is slightly discolored or gently worn will be considered normal wear and tear. A carpet with visible stains, major discoloration and rips will be considered excessively damaged.

    Can the Landlord Charge for Nail Holes in Rhode Island?

    In Rhode Island, landlords can charge a tenant for nail holes if they damage the walls in a way that is not a result of ordinary enjoyment of the rental unit.

    Tenants have the right to use the walls within their unit in a reasonable way. This includes inserting small nails or thumbtacks to hang posters or pictures.

    However, large holes from drilling, multiple nail holes, large nail holes, and holes made for hanging heavier things may be considered damage and thus, chargeable to the tenant.

    Can the Landlord Charge a Cleaning Fee in Rhode Island?

    Rhode Island law allows landlords to charge for reasonable cleaning costs. This means the cost is consistent with normal rates for cleaning services and the cleaning is limited to bringing the unit back to its original condition at the start of the lease.

    Landlords cannot charge for excessive deep cleaning or at a rate that is not typical for local cleaning services.

    Can the Landlord Charge for Painting in Rhode Island?

    Landlords in Rhode Island can charge for painting, except for normal wear and tear. For example, if the tenant:

    • Causes damage beyond normal wear and tear
    • Repaints the wall but is not permitted to do so under the lease agreement
    • Repaints the wall in an unprofessional way

    Ordinary wear includes:

    • Minor scrapes from daily use
    • Fading due to sunlight
    • Minor cracks in the original paint

    Landlords can charge for repainting if the damage is not the result of normal use. This includes stains, large or deep scratches, and water damage.

    Security Deposit Returns in Rhode Island

    Landlords must return a security deposit and/or furniture deposit by mail with a written notice to the tenant’s forwarding address no later than 20 days after the required conditions have been met.

    How Long Do Landlords Have to Return Security Deposits in Rhode Island?

    Rhode Island landlords have 20 days to return any unused portion of the security deposit. The period begins once all three of these events have occurred:

    • The lease terminates
    • Tenant delivers possession of the property to the landlord
    • Tenant provides a forwarding address

    Do Landlords Owe Interest on Security Deposits in Rhode Island?

    Unlike in some states, such as New Jersey, landlords in Rhode Island do not owe interest on security deposits.

    How Do Landlords Give Notice in Rhode Island?

    Written notice must be mailed to the tenant’s forwarding address and must include the amount of the security deposit due, if any, to the tenant, plus a written list of deductions.

    Can a Security Deposit Be Used for Last Month’s Rent in Rhode Island?

    Rhode Island law does not forbid the security deposit from being used for any outstanding rent.

    Landlords can include a provision in the lease agreement that the security deposit cannot be used for the last month’s rent until the tenant vacates the rental unit.

    Security Deposit Disputes in Rhode Island

    If landlords do not return the security deposit within the 20-day period, tenants can file for damages in court up to twice the amount of the deposit plus attorneys’ fees.

    Tenants can also take legal action against a landlord for:

    • Failure to provide written notice when deductions are made from a security deposit
    • Unreasonable deductions

    How Can Tenants File a Dispute for a Security Deposit in Rhode Island?

    If a landlord fails to return the security deposit, the tenant can file a dispute in Small Claims Court if the amount of damages is less than $5,000. If the amount is greater, the tenant must file in the local District Court.

    A small claims case must be filed within 10 years and an attorney is not required except for certain small corporations. Cases are filed in the Small Claims Court for the county where the property is located. Filing fees are $55 to $75.75 depending on your filing method (in person or electronic).