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Rhode Island Landlord-Tenant Laws

Rhode Island Landlord Tenant LawsThis article is intended to be an online resource for Rhode Island landlords.  We summarize key Rhode Island Landlord-Tenant laws that are most applicable to residential rental units.

This article is not qualified for legal advice.  Individuals seeking guidance need to work with a legal advisor who is qualified in the jurisdiction.  Rhode Island Landlord Tenant Laws and statutes may vary from county to county or city to city, this article provides state-level laws and statutes. 

Also, laws and statutes are subject to change and may cause sections of this article to be outdated.  We provide links to assist landlords and tenants to the state statute page for further research.

Click here if you are seeking renters insurance in Rhode Island.

 

Quick Facts for Real Estate Investors Considering Rhode Island

Rhode Island landlord-tenant laws are considered Landlord-friendly.

There are 1.1m  residents in Rhode Island.  Major metropolitan markets in Rhode Island are:

  1. Providence: Estimated population of 179,335, which 38% of residents are renter occupied.  The average rent is $916.

 

 

SECURITY DEPOSIT LAWS IN RHODE ISLAND

 

Does Rhode Island require security deposits?

Rhode Island does not require security deposits, however, if accepted then there are laws and regulations.

 

Is a security deposit receipt required in Rhode Island?

No statute.  It is generally recommended to still send a receipt of at least the date, the total amount received, and its purpose.

 

How much security deposit can a landlord charge in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island limits security deposits to one month’s rent.  (§ 34-18-19(a))

 

 

Storage Requirements for Security Deposits in Rhode Island:

No Statute.  There are no restrictions stated that indicate where a landlord may or may not deposit security deposits.

 

 

Can security deposits be commingled with other assets in Rhode Island?

Landlords can commingle deposits with their personal funds.

 

Do landlords have to pay interest on security deposits in Rhode Island?

Landlords are not required to share the interest earned for deposits.

  

 

 

When must a landlord return the deposit by in Rhode Island?

Landlords must return the security deposits within 20 days after the termination of the lease and delivery of possession by the tenant.  Tenant must provide a forwarding address.  (§ 34-18-19(b))

 

When can a landlord in Rhode Island withhold a security deposit?

At the end of a lease, the landlord is required to return the tenant’s security deposit.  However, landlords may withhold all or portions of a tenant’s security deposit for (§ 34-18-19(b)):

  • Unpaid rent and/or fees
  • Damages beyond normal wear-and-tear
  • Damages from breach of lease

 

 

 

Nonrefundable fees:

No Statute.

 

Pet Deposits and Additional Fees:

No statute on pet security deposits.

 

Require a written description / itemized list of damages and charges?

Landlords are required to provide a written and itemized list of damages that are delivered or mailed to the tenant’s last known address. (§ 34-18-19(b))

 

What happens to Rhode Island landlords that fail to comply with returning the security deposit?

The landlord is liable to the tenant to (§ 34-18-19(c)):

  • Tenant may recover the amount due to them, plus damages equal to twice the amount wrongfully withheld, and reasonable attorney fees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

RENTAL AGREEMENT LAWS IN RHODE ISLAND

 

Rental agreements required in Rhode Island:

Rental agreements are required for leases 12 months or longer.  We always recommend having a legal lease agreement to prevent future complications.

If you need a lease, Burbz offers an online Rhode Island rental lease agreement.

 

What are the required lease provisions in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island requires certain provisions to be included in the lease agreement.  Besides both the landlord and tenant names, the landlord should also list:

  • Conditions of occupancy
  • Description of the rental unit
  • Provision defining automatic renewal
  • Late Fees and Penalties
  • Landlords name, address, and phone number
  • Rent Amount and Due Date.
  • Length of the lease agreement
  • Tenants name, address, and phone number
  • Landlord’s responsibilities for maintenance and utilities
  • Tenant’s responsibilities for maintenance and utilities
  • Occupancy by children or pets
  • Required deposits and the conditions for their refund
  • Inspection rights by the landlord
  • Other fees
  • Address of rental property
  • Security deposit amount and terms
  • Process for requesting maintenance and repairs
  • Subleasing policy
  • Pet policies
  • Cleaning Fees

 

LANDLORDS ARE PROHIBITED FROM:

  • Tenant agrees to waive or forego rights or remedies under Rhode Island Landlord and Tenant Act
  • Tenant confess judgment on a claim arising out of the lease agreement
  • Tenant agrees to pay for the landlord’s attorney’s fees
  • Tenant agrees to exculpate, limit, or indemnifies any of the landlord’s liability arising law for damages or injuries

 

 

What are the rental agreement notice requirements in Rhode Island:

Fixed-End or Year-to-Year: No statute as leases expire.  However, for yearly leases with no end date, there is a 3-month notice prior to the expiration of the current occupancy year.  (§ 34-18-37(c))

Month-to-Month: Must provide at least 30 days’ written notice at any time. (§ 34-18-37(b))  Read our guide on Month-to-Month rent.

Week-to-Week: Must provide at least 10 day’s written notice with the termination date specified in the notice. (§ 34-18-37(a))

 

Rent Increase Notice:

Landlords must provide a 30 day notice prior to the effective increase date.  If the tenant is older than 62 years of age, a 60-day notice is required.  (§ 34-18-16.1)

 

Rent Grace Period for Residential:

Rhode Island has a 15 day grace period that landlords must wait before sending a written notice.  The statute does not define when late fees can be applied.  (§ 34-18-35)

 

 

Prepaid Rent:

Landlords are allowed to accept prepaid rent.  Any amount paid in advance for a period after the effective date of the termination of the lease will need to be refunded to the tenant within 30 days of the effective termination date.  (§ 34-18-15(5))

 

 

 

 

 

 

LATE FEES AND LIMITS IN RHODE ISLAND

Late Fees for Residential:

Rhode Island landlords can charge any reasonable amount for late fees.  Generally, landlords charge 1 to 1-1/2 month’s rent for unfurnished rentals.

 

 

 

 

RHODE ISLAND LEASE TERMINATIONS / NOTICES TO QUIT

 

In Rhode Island, lease agreements between landlords and tenants can be terminated.  Read our blog for landlords about handling early lease terminations.  Here are the cause and effects:

 

What is the Pay or Quit for Nonpayment requirement in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island landlords must wait 15 days before sending a 5-day notice.  If tenants pay on or before the 5th day, the tenant has cured their breach of the lease.  (§ 34-18-35)

 

 

How many days must a landlord allow before terminating for a Lease Violation?

Landlords must provide a 20 day notice to remedy or cure the violation.  However, if the tenant breaches or violates the same issue in a 6 month period, the landlord may provide a 20-day written notice to terminate the lease without giving the tenant an opportunity to remedy.  (§ 34-18-36)

 

 

Any actions that result in an immediate lease termination?

Landlords may terminate the lease agreement with no opportunity to cure for drug, violence, criminal behavior or a repeated lease violation within a 6-month period.  The landlord must provide a 20-day written notice for terminating the lease.  (§ 34-18-36)

 

 

 

 

RHODE ISLAND LAWS ON REPAIRS

 

Rhode Island requires landlords to provide a habitable property for tenants to live and enjoy.  There are specific provisions defining how tenants can remedy repairs if the landlord fails to do so. 

How many days must the tenant give for non-emergency repairs? 

Rhode Island state landlords must be given 30 days notice but the landlord only has 20 days to remedy the repairs after receiving notice.  (§ 34-18-39)

 

Can tenants withhold rent for landlords’ failure to provide essential services (i.e. water, heat, etc.)?

Rhode Island allows the tenant the following remedies to handle repairs if the landlord fails (§ 34-18-39)

  • If the repair cost less than $125, the tenant can hire somebody to perform the work and seek reimbursement from their landlord.  However, the tenant must provide written notice for their intention to hire a contractor to do the repairs.
  • Terminate the lease if not corrected within the 20 day period

 

 

RHODE ISLAND LANDLORD LAWS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

 

Landlords have an obligation to the tenants, which include (§ 34-18-22):

  • Remain in compliance with all applicable building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety
  • Make repairs to keep premises in a safe condition
  • Keep all common areas of the property in a clean and safe condition
  • Maintain in good and safe working order and condition electrical, plumbing, sanitary, HVAC, and other facilities and appliances, including elevators.
  • Provide and maintain appropriate receptacles and conveniences for removal ashes, garbage, rubbish, and other waste
  • Supply running water and a reasonable amount of hot water at all times and reasonable heat from October 1st to May 1st

 

According to (§ 34-18-22)

 

 

RHODE ISLAND TENANT LAWS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

 

Generally, tenants must dispose of all rubbish and garbage, refrain from unreasonable use of electrical, heating, and plumbing fixtures, meet all obligations lawfully by the code enforcement agency, refrain from willfully destroying or damaging the structure, take in additional occupants, rent or sublease without the owner’s consent. 

As well as not engaging in any criminal activity that threatens the health, the safety of other tenants or disrupts their peaceful enjoyment of the premises.  See statute on Narcotics Nuisance.  (§ 34-18-24)

 

 

 

 

 

RHODE ISLAND EVICTION LAWS

 

Can landlords do a ‘self help’ eviction?

In Rhode Island, it is illegal for landlords to cause the tenant to quit the rental unit involuntarily. Landlords that use forcible exclusion for eviction are liable for a penalty of three times the damages or average monthly rent, plus reasonable attorney’s fees.  ( § 34-18-34)

Are landlords allowed to lockout tenants by changing locks?

The landlord cannot change or remove the doors or locks. (§ 34-18-44)

 

Are landlords allowed to turn off utilities?

Landlords cannot turn off utilities. (§ 34-18-44)

 

Do landlords have to make a reasonable attempt to mitigate damages when re-renting the rental unit?

Yes.  Landlords must attempt to minimize damages.  If the landlord fails to do so, the lease is deemed to be terminated by the landlord as of the date of the abandonment notice. (§ 34-18-40)

 

 

 

RHODE ISLAND LAWS ON RETALIATION

 

Rhode Island laws state a landlord cannot terminate a lease, refuse a lease renewal or raise rents, terminate a periodic tenancy, or threaten to bring an action of possession when (§ 34-18-46):

 

  • Tenant submitted, or threatened to, a complaint to a government agency for building or health code violation
  • Tenant has sent written complaints to the landlords about repairs
  • Tenant has exercised any lawful they are entitled to
  • Tenant has organized or joined a tenants’ union, or similar organization

 

Massachusetts defines a period of 6 months that would result in retaliatory action. Tenants may be rewarded the equivalent of 3 months’ rent, reasonable attorney fees, and court costs. ( § 34-18-34)

 

 

 

 

LAWS ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, SEXUAL MISCONDUCT, AND SEXUAL ASSAULT

A landlord cannot discriminate against prospective tenants or tenants because they have been a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, rape, or stalking.  Burbz encourages landlords to work with their tenants for safety and health.  A general good practice is allowing the victim to terminate the lease with a 30-day notice and victims should provide proof of documentation.  (§ 34-37-1)

If you are a victim, please search The Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence  site for a helpline:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

 

 

 

RHODE ISLAND LAWS FOR LOCKS AND LANDLORDS

Rhode Island does not have any statewide laws regarding locks for landlords.  The tenant cannot remove, replace, or add a lock without the written permission from the landlord.  If the tenant does with permission, they must provide the landlord with a key. 

 

 

 

 

RHODE ISLAND PET LAWS & PET POLICIES

Rhode Island Landlord-Tenant Laws does not have any specific pet laws.  Landlords are legally allowed to create their own pet policies and requirements.  Including tolerance for breeds, size, types, and more. 

Read our guide to pet policies.

 

 

 

 

 

DO LANDLORDS IN RHODE ISLAND NEED A RENTAL LICENSE?

 

According to Rhode Island Landlord-Tenant Laws, landlords do not need a rental license in Rhode Island.

Landlords and owners of residential rental property do not need to register the property.  Local cities may have different requirements, we recommend you research the local city-specific laws.

 

 

 

 

 

NOTICE OF ENTRY LAWS IN RHODE ISLAND

Do landlords in Rhode Island have to provide notice of entry? 

Rhode Island requires the landlord to provide 48 hours notice, except in the case of an emergency.  Entry is only allowed during reasonable hours. (§ 34-18-26(c))

  • Non-emergency maintenance and repairs
  • Improvements to property
  • Inspections
  • Showing prospective tenants, contractors, mortgagees, or buyers.

 

When can a landlord enter without notice:

Landlords may enter due to an emergency, during an absence greater than 7 days to reasonably protect the property.  (§ 34-18-26(c))

 

 

Can landlords enter for non-emergency maintenance and repairs?

Yes, with proper notice and performed at reasonable hours. (§ 34-18-26(a))

 

 

Can landlords enter for showings?

Yes, with proper notice and performed at reasonable hours. (§ 34-18-26(a))

 

 

 

Can landlords enter for emergencies without notice?

Yes, when there is an immediate threat to the safety or health of persons using or near the premises. (§ 34-18-26(b))

 

 

Can landlords enter during Tenant’s extended absence?

Yes, only when the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises. (Ok. Stat. § 128(D))

 

 

Can landlords enter for pesticides?

No Statute.

 

 

 

 

 

RHODE ISLAND SUBLEASE AND ASSIGNMENT PROVISIONS

Landlords should include a clause in the lease agreement to prevent subleasing.  Otherwise, the tenant may sublet the rental unit.

 

 

 

 

TENANT ABANDONED PROPERTY IN RHODE ISLAND

 

Rhode Island Residential Landlord and Tenant Act do not state any abandonment of personal property laws.  Generally, landlords should send notice to tenants for any personal property of value that was left behind.  Typically a 30-day notice should suffice in most states, keep the records for at least 12 months.

 

 

 

 

REQUIRED RENTAL AGREEMENT DISCLOSURES FOR RHODE ISLAND LEASES

 

Rhode Island Landlord-Tenant Laws requires the following be included with all Rental Agreement Disclosures:

 

Lead Paint Disclosure:  Yes.  Federal law requires every landlord to disclose known information on lead-based paint and hazards.  Landlords must provide this EPA-approved pamphlet.

 

 

 

 

HELPFUL RESOURCES

§ 34-18 Residential Landlord and Tenant Act

§ 9-1-13 Limitation of Actions

Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Rhode Island

 

RHODE ISLAND RELATED COURT INFO & LINKS

 

Rhode Island Small Claims Court Limits:

$2,500 is the limit for small claims court. 

 

Rhode Island Eviction Cases Allowed in Small Claims:

No, eviction cases are held at the district courts.

Rhode Island Judiciary

Rhode Island Attorney General

Rhode Island Bar Association

Rhode Island District Court

State of Rhode Island: 5-Day Demand Notice for Non-Payment of Rent

State of Rhode Island: Notice of Termination of Tenancy

 

 

 

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