Rights, Regulations, & Landlord Tenant Laws - Rhode Island 
In the Ocean State, Rhode Island landlords and tenants must understand and adhere to a complex web of local and state rental laws. These statutes, often referred to as landlord-tenant laws, influence rental owners' and renters’ rights and responsibilities, along with the dynamics of their landlord-tenant relationship. Navigating these regulations can pose a huge challenge, even for experienced landlords and tenants.
To help address this challenge, we've compiled this comprehensive guide, covering key rental topics like tenant screening, eviction procedures, rental agreements, and more. Whether you're a landlord or a tenant, this guide will equip you with a comprehensive understanding of Rhode Island's laws, as stipulated in the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, Chapter 18.
Landlords will discover how to safeguard their rental properties and cultivate positive relationships with tenants, while tenants will acquire the invaluable knowledge required to assert their basic rights.
Rhode Island landlord tenant law fast facts
Rhode Island landlord responsibilities and rights
Rhode Island provides residential landlords certain rights that allow them to efficiently run their rental properties protected from legal issues. A few of their main rights include:
- Charging and collecting on-time rent payments
- Collecting security deposits to cover unforeseen costs like unpaid rent
- Pursuing the formal eviction process if tenants breach the lease agreement
Rhode Island landlords also have a set of responsibilities to uphold that ensure a safe and smooth tenancy for renters. Their top duties are:
- Providing renters with a safe, habitable rental property free of discrimination
- Making repairs within 20 days after receiving written notice from a tenant
- Returning the tenant’s security deposit within 20 days after the lease ends
Rhode Island tenant responsibilities and rights
Rhode Island tenants, too, have rights that protect their safety and well-being while residing in a rental property. Their top rights include:
- Living in a habitable rental property that meets local and state health and safety codes
- Having repairs made in 20 days after providing the landlord with written notice
- Taking legal action if the landlord violates the rental agreement
Renters in Rhode Island have their own set of obligations to uphold while renting. Generally, these duties ensure the rental unit is maintained and the landlord’s finances are protected. Tenants must:
- Pay rent when due
- Keep the unit in safe and habitable condition
- Comply with all health and safety building and housing codes
- Not disturb other renters or neighbors
- Dispose of all garbage in a proper manner
- Make small repairs and perform maintenance as necessary
- Refrain from committing illegal acts on the property or nearby premises
- Not purposefully destroy or damage any part of the property
- Use the property and its appliances as intended
Rhode island landlord tenant laws through the rental cycle
Rhode Island tenant screening and rental application laws
Concerning rental applications, Rhode Island does not limit how much a landlord can charge for a rental application fee or require them to be refundable. Additionally, landlords should not ask any questions on the application that could lead to housing discrimination as outlined in the Federal Fair Housing Act.
Furthermore, Rhode Island landlords can run any background check to assess prospective tenants, but they must first obtain the tenant’s written consent.
Rhode Island lease agreement and lease termination laws
In Rhode island, a lease or rental agreement can be either written or oral. However, it’s recommended that leases for longer than a year be in writing and signed by both parties.
The following information should be include in all Rhode Island leases: the landlord’s name, address and phone number, rent amount and due date, length of the lease agreement, and a description of the rental. Learn what other information you should include in a lease agreement today.
To terminate a lease in Rhode Island, landlords must provide a 10-day notice for week-to-week leases and a 30-day notice for month-to-month tenancies. For year-to-year leases, a 3 months’ notice period is required.
Rhode Island tenants can also terminate a rental agreement early for the following legal reasons:
- Active military duty
- Early termination clause
- Landlord harassment
- Advanced age or health issues
Rhode Island security deposit laws
Rhode Island state law allows landlords to collect a security deposit at the start of the lease term to cover unexpected costs. The state limits landlords to collecting the equivalent of one month’s rent for the deposit, or $2,000 for furnished rentals valued at over $5,000.
At the end of the lease, the landlord must return the tenant’s security deposit within 20 days. However, they can make deductions from the security deposit for reasons including cleaning costs, trash disposal, rental damage beyond normal wear and tear, and unpaid rent.
If the landlord fails to comply with the notice period or wrongfully withholds funds, tenants can sue for twice the amount of the deposit plus attorneys’ fees.
Rhode Island rent laws
Rhode island does not have state rent control laws, but it does allow cities and local governments to create their own. However, no local jurisdictions in Rhode Island have approved any ren control laws.
This allows landlords to charge any amount of rent and increase rent as often as they wish, as long it it’s not during a lease period (unless the lease specifically allows for it). Before raising rent, landlords must provide tenants with 30 days’ notice. Tenants older than 62 on a month-to-month lease must be given a 60 days’ notice.
If Rhode Island tenants fail to pay rent on time, landlords are not required to provide a grace period before instating a late fee. There is not a limit on how much a landlord can charge for a late fee, but it must be reasonable.
Rhode Island repair and maintenance laws
Rhode Island landlords must make repairs within 21 days after receiving written notice from tenants.
If the landlord fails to make repairs in the specified time frame, renters can take several legal actions: sue for costs, file a court order to force the landlord to make repairs, and cancel the rental agreement. They can also use the “repair and deduct” remedy in which they make minor repairs and deduct the cost from the rent.
Rhode Island notice of entry laws
In Rhode Island, landlords have the right to enter their rental units for maintenance, inspections, and property showings. They must provide at least 48 hours' notice prior to entering, unless it’s for an emergency, and can only enter at reasonable times of the day.
Rhode Island eviction laws
Rhode Island law allows landlords to evict tenants for specific legal reasons. Before evicting tenants, landlords are required to provide a notice period, dependent on the reason for the eviction. Here are the permitted reasons and associated notices:
- Nonpayment of rent: If the tenant fails to pay rent on time, the landlord may issue a 5-day notice to pay after the 15-day state grace period. If the tenant still does not pay, the landlord can move forward with the eviction process and file a Complaint for Eviction of Nonpayment of Rent.
- Lease violation: If the tenant commits a lease violation, the landlord may issue a 20-day notice to comply. If the tenant does not correct the issue within that time frame, the landlord can continue the eviction process.
- Illegal acts: If the landlord has proof that a tenant has committed an illegal act that threatens the health, safety, or quiet enjoyment of others, they can begin the eviction process immediately and no eviction notice is required.
- No lease/end of lease: If the tenant stays past the end of the tenancy, the landlord can issue a notice to quit. The notice period depends on the type of tenancy. Week-to-week leases require a 10-day notice to quit and month-to-month leases require a 30-day notice to quit. For year-to-year leases, landlords are required to provide a 90-day notice to quit.
Additional Rhode Island landlord tenant laws
Rhode Island state law also encompasses statutes dealing with housing discrimination, landlord retaliation, and more. Discover a few of these topics below.
Both state and federal laws protect Rhode Island renters from housing discrimination. Under the Federal Fair Housing Act, landlords are prohibited from discriminating against renters based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. Rhode Island state law further protects renters from discrimination based on characteristics including age, gender identity, sexual orientation, and domestic abuse victim status.
If a landlord violates housing discrimination laws, such as falsely claiming the unit is unavailable, tenants can seek legal help and file a complaint with the Rhode Island Human Rights Commission.
Like other US states, it’s illegal for Rhode Island’s landlords to retaliate against tenants for taking protected actions like reporting the landlord to authorities for health and safety violations. Raised rent, reduced services, and threatened evictions are all considered forms of retaliation.
Rhode Island state law requires landlords to provide several disclosures to tenants at the beginning of the lease period. The disclosures include:
- Lead-based paint: Landlords who own rental units built before 1978 must provide information about lead-based paint concentrations.
- Authorized agent: Landlords must provide the names and addresses of all parties involved in owning and managing the property.
- Housing code violation: If the property has an outstanding housing code violation, the landlord must disclose the issue to the tenant.
Bottomline: Understanding Rhode Island landlord tenant laws
Rhode Island's rental laws establish a clear framework that outlines the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants. These laws simultaneously promote a fair rental process and nurture a harmonious landlord-tenant relationship.
By understanding and complying with these laws, landlords can safeguard their property investments, while tenants can confidently assert their legal rights when needed. After reading this guide, landlords and renters should continue educating themselves on Rhode Island’s evolving rental laws, as the rental landscape is always changing.
Landlords, do you need help with rent collection or lease agreements? Tenants, are you looking for a credit boost or renter insurance? Whatever you need, Azibo’s got you covered. Learn more about our free rental software today!