Rhode Island Rental Application Form

Last Updated: July 5, 2024 by Roberto Valenzuela

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A Rhode Island rental application form helps a landlord choose a prospective tenant who is well suited to rent a particular property. The form requests personal and employment information plus consent for a credit check (sometimes called a consumer report). Applications often collect a non-refundable fee, commonly equal to the cost of getting the relevant screening reports.

Rhode Island Rental Application Laws

Rhode Island has minimal regulations on the content or process of a rental application. Unlike some states, Rhode Island does not cap application fees or require a specific recipient. In general, if the landlord wants the application fee to be nonrefundable, this must be noted in a clear writing to the prospective tenant.

Quick Guide To Process a Rhode Island Rental Application

After receiving a Rhode Island rental application, most landlords use the following process to evaluate the potential tenant:

  1. Verify Credit – Order a credit report for the potential tenant; a score of 600-650 is a common minimum requirement. A credit report can be as simple as a “pass/fail” result or can have comprehensive details, including criminal history. (NOTE: a credit report requires the tenant’s written and signed consent, on the application or separately)
  2. Verify Income – Check the potential tenant’s employment status and pay scale. This can be done through recent pay stubs and/or contacting the potential tenant’s employer.
  3. Check Rental History – Contact previous landlord(s) to confirm a potential tenant has in the past been a good renter and neighbor.
  4. Check Eviction History – Verify the potential tenant has honestly disclosed the details of any past evictions. An eviction check usually covers a longer period (previous 7 years) than a rental history check (previous 3 years).
  5. Check Criminal History – Confirm the potential tenant’s reporting of any criminal history, especially including a check of criminal databases like sex offender registries.
  6. Provide a Response – Approve the application if it’s a good fit, or, if rejecting the application, draft an appropriate adverse action notice to limit liability.

Checking Eviction History in Rhode Island

Rhode Island eviction cases are matters of public record which anyone can access. While third-party services often automatically check eviction history as part of a screening report, this can also be checked manually, for free, with the following process:

  • Visit the Rhode Island Judiciary Public Portal
  • Select Smart Search at the bottom of the page
  • Enter the applicant’s name and other applicable information you may have
  • Check the reCAPTCHA box, submit, and any cases involving the applicant will pop up
  • Select the case number to view the register of actions and case events

Restrictions on Rhode Island Rental Application Questions

The sample rental application provided on this page complies with federal law restricting the information a landlord can request. In general, it’s illegal under the Federal Fair Housing Act to screen tenants by asking for information about the following, or using these as a basis for approving or denying an application:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin (nationality)
  • Religion
  • Sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity)
  • Familial status (i.e., having or not having children)
  • Disability (whether physical or mental)

Rhode Island also adds protections for some categories like age and marital or veteran status. There are some narrow exemptions for things like senior housing or certain very-small scale landlords, but local regulations may still apply. Always consult an attorney before attempting to ignore state or federal requirements.

Rejecting an Application: Adverse Action Notice

When taking an action which may disadvantage a potential tenant, a landlord may have to provide an adverse action notice informing the tenant about the decision (sometimes called a “conditional approval,” if the application is approved subject to meeting additional conditions). Federal regulations require an adverse action notice whenever a landlord collects a credit report and takes one of the following actions:

  • Rejecting the potential tenant’s application
  • Adding a requirement for someone to co-sign the potential tenant’s lease
  • Demanding a larger security deposit than before, as a condition for renting
  • Asking for higher rent after receiving the report

Important Features of an Adverse Action Notice

An adverse action notice must contain the following details:

  • Note that the landlord took adverse action based on information in a consumer credit report
  • Details of the consumer reporting agency
  • Note that the landlord decided the adverse action, not the agency
  • Declaration of the applicant’s right to a copy of the consumer credit report
  • Declaration of the application’s right to dispute the report within 60 calendar days

While not legally required, it also is expedient for a landlord to explain the reasons for the adverse action, since this establishes a written record of issues with the application.

For an example, see this tenant rejection letter template.

Fees in Rhode Island

Rhode Island has the following regulations on fees relating to a new rental:

  • Rental Application Limit: No fees allowed, except that the landlord may pass on the cost of an official background check or credit report, if the tenant does not provide one current to within the past 90 days
  • Security Deposit Limit: One month’s rent (plus one additional month for certain furniture deposits)
  • Pet Fee Limit: No cap, but any pet fee counts toward the limit on a security deposit

Local jurisdictions may impose stricter regulations than the statewide standard. Always check local laws.