State Rules and Regulations for Rhode Island Rental Properties and Landlords

In Rhode Island, as with other states, a lease agreement exists wherever there is an agreement to exchange rent for inhabiting a property. According to Rhode Island law (Residential Landlord and Tenant Act Ch. 18-34), this agreement gives the tenant certain rights, such as the right to a habitable dwelling and the right to take at least two forms of alternative action.

Landlords also have rights, including the right to collect rent in a timely manner and the right to proceed with formal eviction pending a lease violation or nonpayment of rent.

Rhode Island Official Rules and Regulations

Rhode Island Security Deposit Limit and Return

Rhode Island landlord tenant law allows the landlord to ask for up to one month’s rent as security deposit. [RI 34-18-19.(a)]

There are no Rhode Island landlord tenant statutes on security deposit holding methods and security deposit interest.

Rhode Island landlord tenant law requires the landlord to inform the tenant of the terms and conditions for security deposit deductions.

Valid reasons for security deposit deductions (under Rhode Island landlord tenant law) include [RI 34-18-19.(b)]:

  • Rent owed
  • Property damage due to negligence, misuse or abuse by tenant, occupants or tenant’s guests
  • Costs and losses incurred by landlord due to the tenant failing in his or her duties – See Tenant Responsibilities and Duties below

The landlord is NOT allowed to take money from the security deposit due to damage from *normal wear and tear. *Normal wear and tear is the natural deterioration of the property (and its contents) from normal everyday use.

Once the lease terminates and the tenant returns the property, the landlord must send the tenant a list of security deposit deductions and refund any remaining deposit within 20 days. This list has to individually account for all damages and rent owed in writing.

If the landlord fails to follow Rhode Island landlord tenant law for deducting and returning security deposit, the tenant can recover up to two times the deposit amount that was wrongfully withheld plus attorney fees. [RI 34-18-19.(c)]

Once the property ownership is transferred, the new owner will be responsible for refunding any security deposit or prepaid rent to the tenant at the end of the tenancy. [RI 34-18-23]

The previous owner (and property manager) will no longer be responsible for the tenancy once he or she informs the tenant of the new owner’s (and property manager’s) name, address and phone number. [RI 34-18-23]

Lease, Rent & Fees Under Rhode Island Law

  • Rent Is Due: Rent is due as agreed to in the lease. If there is no agreement, rent is paid at the beginning of the month (§ 34-18-15(c)).
  • Rent Increase Notice: 30-day notice is required prior to the effective date of the increase. For month-to-month tenants over the age of 62, 60 days’ notice is required (§ 34-18-16.1).
  • Rent Grace Period: No statute.
  • Late Fees: No statute.
  • Prepaid Rent: Prepaid rent for a period after the effective date of the termination of the lease shall be refunded within 30 days (§ 34-18-15(5)).
  • Returned Check Fees: If the amount demanded is not paid within 30 days of receipt of notice demanding payment, the check writer is liable for the amount of the check, plus a $25 collection fee, plus three times the amount of the check, but in no case less than $200 and in no case more than $1,000. (§ 6-42-3).
  • Tenant Allowed to Withhold Rent for Failure to Provide Essential Services (Water, Heat, etc.): Yes, tenants may take reasonable measures to secure reasonable amounts of the essential service and deduct their actual and reasonable costs from the rent. See statute for other provisions (§ 34-18-31).
  • Tenant Allowed to Repair and Deduct Rent: Allowed if the reasonable cost of repairs is less than $125, and the condition was not caused by the tenant’s or the tenants’ family’s deliberate or negligent action or inaction. Tenants must notify their landlords of their intention to correct the condition at the landlord’s expense, after which the landlord has 20 days to remedy or demonstrate ongoing, good faith efforts to comply. Tenant must submit an itemized statement of all costs for the repair (§ 34-18-30).
  • Landlord Allowed to Recover Court and Attorney’s Fees: In an eviction for holding over after the termination or expiration of tenancy where the tenant’s holdover is willful and not in good faith, landlords are entitled to recover reasonable attorney’s fees (§ 34-18-38).
  • Landlord Must Make a Reasonable Attempt to Mitigate Damages to Lessee, including an Attempt to Rerent: Yes (§ 34-18-40).
  • Abandonment/Early Termination Fee: Not allowed, but upon vacating the premises, tenants would still be responsible for any unpaid rent, taxes, summonses, or other obligations in accordance with the lease terms, including reasonable charges for excess wear (§ 34-18-15(4)).

Evictions in Rhode Island

Rhode Island law empowers landlords to evict tenants for the following reasons:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Notices and Entry Under Rhode Island Law

  • Rhode Island Notice and Complaint Forms: (§ 34-18-56)
  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Fixed End Date in Lease: Notice is not required as the lease simply expires.
  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Yearly Lease with No End Date: Three months’ notice prior to the expiration of the occupation year (§ 34-18-37(c)).
  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Month-to-Month Lease: 30 days’ notice before the date specified in the notice. (§ 34-18-37(b))
  • Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Week-to-Week Lease: 10-day written notice before the termination date specified in the notice (§ 34-18-37(a)).
  • Termination of Tenancy with 24 Hours Notice: Landlord may file for immediate eviction without notice if the renter violates the statutory tenant’s duties relating to drugs or violent crime, or has been charged with violating a municipal ordinance or has violated the terms of the lease pertaining to legal occupancy or excessive noise or other disturbance of the peace (§ 34-18-36(f)).
  • Notice of Date/Time of Move-Out Inspection: No statute.
  • Notice of Failure to Maintain: If the tenant fails to maintain the premises in compliance with § 34-18-24 and that affects health and safety, and the problem can be fixed by repair, replacement of a damaged item, or cleaning, the landlord may give 20-day notice specifying the breach and requesting remedy. If tenant does not remedy, landlord may enter and remedy the problem in a skilled manner and submit an itemized bill to the tenant, due as rent on the next day rent is due (§ 34-18-39).
  • Notice of Termination for Nonpayment: Five days’ written notice before the lease is terminated, may be given when rent is late 15 days. Eviction can commence no earlier than the sixth day after mailing of the written notice. (§ 34-18-35)
  • Termination for Lease Violation: If tenants fail to comply with the terms of the lease or materially affects the health and safety of the premises, landlords may give notice that the lease will terminate after 20 days. The tenant may remedy the breach and avoid the lease termination, unless the breach was related to drugs, violence, or criminal behavior. The tenant has 20 days from being notified to file their answer to the landlord’s complaint. If they don’t, a default judgment is entered against them. If the same type of noncompliance happens again within six months of a prior notice, landlord may terminate the lease with 20-day written notice, and tenants aren’t allowed to remedy (§ 34-18-36).
  • Termination Before Entering Assisted Living Facility: A tenant who is 65 years of age or older may terminate a rental agreement in order to enter an assisted living or nursing facility or public housing complex designated by the federal government as housing for the elderly. Termination is effective no earlier than 45 days after the first rental payment due date following delivery of written notice of termination (§ 34-18-15(e)).
  • Required Notice before Entry: At least two days’ notice, and entry is allowed only at reasonable times (§ 34-18-26(c)).
  • Entry Allowed with Notice for Maintenance and Repairs (non-emergency): Yes (§ 34-18-26(a))
  • Entry Allowed with Notice for Showings: Yes (§ 34-18-26(a)).
  • Emergency Entry Allowed without Notice: Yes (§ 34-18-26(b)).
  • Entry Allowed During Tenant’s Extended Absence: Allowed if reasonably necessary for the protection of the property (§ 34-18-26(b)).
  • Noticed Required Before Tenant’s Extended Absence: The rental agreement may require that tenants notify landlords of any anticipated extended absence from the premises longer than 10 days no later than the first day of the extended absence (§ 34-18-27).
  • Notice to Tenants for Pesticide Use: No statute.
  • Lockouts Allowed: No. See § 34-18-34 for tenant’s remedies if lockout is attempted.
  • Utility Shut-offs Allowed: No. See § 34-18-34 for tenant’s remedies if diminution of services is attempted.

Rhode Island Landlord Tenant Law – Mandatory Disclosures

Rhode Island landlords only have to make 2 mandatory disclosures:

  1. Lead-based paint. Landlords that own homes built before 1978 must provide information about concentrations of lead paint.
  2. Authorized agents. Landlords must also provide the names and addresses of those involved in managing the property.

Business Licenses

  • Business License Required: No statewide statute regarding business licenses, but anyone leasing property in the cities of Providence or Warwick must register their name, address and telephone number with the city clerk in the city where such property is located. (§ 34-18-57)

Helpful Links

State Regulatory Bodies & Agencies

Housing Authorities

Realtor and Landlord Organizations

These resources are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Landlords and Tenants are encouraged to seek specific legal advice for any of the issues as found in this blog.

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