This article summarizes some key Rhode Island rental laws applicable to residential rental units.
The Official State Statutes and other reputable municipal sources were used to research this information. All sources are cited appropriately.
With that said, landlord-tenant laws are always changing, and may even vary from county to county. You have a responsibility to perform your own research and cautiously apply the laws to your unique situation.
If you have a legal question or concern, I only recommend contacting a licensed attorney referral service that is operated by the state bar association. This article is not intended to be exhaustive or a substitute for qualified legal advice.
Official Rules and Regulations
- § 34-18 – Residential Landlord and Tenant Act
- § 9-1-13 – Limitation of Actions
- Rhode Island Landlord-Tenant Handbook (pdf)
- Security Deposit Maximum: Not to exceed one month’s rent (§ 34-18-19(a))
- Security Deposit Interest: No statute
- Separate Security Deposit Bank Account: No statute
- Pet Deposits: No statute
- Non-Refundable Fees: No statute
- Deadline for Returning Security Deposit: Within 20 days after the later of either termination of the tenancy, delivery of possession, or the tenant’s providing the landlord with a forwarding address for the purpose of receiving the security deposit. (§ 34-18-19(b))
- Permitted Uses of the Deposit:
- To cover unpaid rent that is due;
- To cover the amount of physical damages to the premises, other than ordinary wear and tear, due to the tenant’s noncompliance with their obligations to maintain the unit. ( § 34-18-19(b))
- Require Written Description/Itemized List of Damages and Charges: Yes (§ 34-18-19(b))
- Record Keeping of Deposit Withholdings: No statute
- Receipt of Deposit: No statute
- Failure to Comply: If the landlord fails to comply with the rules for returning the security deposit, the tenant may recover the amount due together with damages twice the amount wrongfully withheld, and reasonable attorney fees. (§ 34-18-19(c))
Lease, Rent & Fees:
- 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 required prior to the effective date of the increase. For month-to-month tenants over the age of 62, 60-day 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 amount demanded is not paid within 30 days of receipt of notice demanding payment, 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, tenant 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 tenant’s family’s deliberate or negligent action or inaction. Tenant must notify landlord 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, landlord is 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 tenant 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) )
Notices and Entry:
- Rhode Island Notice and Complaint Forms: (§ 34-18-56)
- Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Fixed End Date in Lease: Notice not required as the lease simply expires.
- Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Yearly Lease with No End Date: 3-month notice prior to the expiration of the occupation year (§ 34-18-37(c))
- Notice to Terminate Tenancy – Month-to-Month Lease: 30-day 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-day written notice before 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 tenant fails to comply with the terms of the lease or materially affects the health and safety of the premises, landlord may give notice that the lease will terminate after 20 days. The tenant may remedy the breach and avoid 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, and 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 tenant isn’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-day notice, and entry is allowed only at a reasonable time. (§ 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 the tenant notify the landlord 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. (§ 34-18-34)
- Utility Shut-offs Allowed: No. See § 34-18-34 for tenant’s remedies if diminution of services is attempted. (§ 34-18-34)
Disclosures and Miscellaneous Notes:
- Name and Addresses: Landlord shall disclose to the tenant in writing the name, address and number of the authorized property manager as well as that of the property owner or representative of the owner for the purpose of service of process and receiving and receipting for notices and demands. (§ 34-18-20)
- Copy of the Lease: No statute
- Landlord’s Duty to Notify of Code Violation: If the landlord is cited for a housing code violation, the landlord shall within 30 days of receipt of the notice deliver a copy of the notice to each tenant in the affected building, unless the violation is corrected within that 30-day period. Prior to entering into a rental agreement, the landlord shall inform prospective tenants of any outstanding housing code violations on the building. (§ 34-18-22.1)
- Domestic Violence Situations:
- Protection from Termination: Landlord cannot terminate a tenancy, fail to renew a tenancy, or refuse to enter into a rental agreement with a victim of domestic violence.(§ 34-37-1)
- Landlord’s Duties: (§ 34-18-22)
- Compliance: Comply with the requirements of applicable building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety;
- Repairs: Make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition;
- Common Areas: Keep all common areas of the premises in a clean and safe condition;
- Maintenance: Maintain in good and safe working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and other facilities and appliances, including elevators, supplied or required to be supplied; and
- Garbage: Provide and maintain appropriate receptacles and conveniences for the removal of garbage incidental to occupancy of the unit; and
- Running Water and Heat: Supply running water and reasonable amounts of hot water at all times and reasonable heat between October 1 and May 1 except where the building that includes the dwelling unit is not required by law to be equipped for that purpose, or the dwelling unit is so constructed that heat or hot water is generated by an installation within the exclusive control of the tenant and supplied by a direct public utility connection.
- Tenant’s Duties: (§ 34-18-24)
- Compliance: Comply with all obligations primarily imposed upon tenants by applicable provisions of building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety;
- Cleanliness: Keep the premises that tenant occupies and uses as clean and safe as the condition of the premises permit;
- Trash: Dispose of all garbage and other waste in a clean and safe manner;
- Plumbing: Keep all plumbing fixtures in the dwelling unit or used by the tenant as clean as their condition permits;
- Appliances: Use in a reasonable manner all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and other facilities and appliances including elevators in the premises;
- Lawful Activity: Not deliberately or negligently destroy, deface, damage, impair or remove any part of the premises or knowingly permit any person to do so; and
- Quiet Enjoyment: Conduct himself and require other persons on the premises with tenant consent to conduct themselves in a manner that will not disturb neighbors’ peaceful enjoyment of the premises.
- Narcotics Nuisance: Refrain from using the premises in a manner that would constitute the maintaining of a narcotics nuisance under § 21-28-4.06.
- Controlled Substance Activities: Refrain from using any part of the premises or any adjacent public property for the manufacture, sale, or delivery of a controlled substance or from possessing with the intent to manufacture, sell, or deliver a controlled substance.
- Crimes of Violence: Refrain from any crime of violence, or attempt, on the premises or on any adjacent public property, including murder, manslaughter, arson, rape, sexual assault, mayhem, kidnapping, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault or battery involving grave bodily injury, and a felony assault with intent to commit any offense.
- Retaliation: Landlord must not raise the rent, reduce services, file for eviction or threaten to evict the tenant for complaining to the landlord about the landlord’s failure to maintain premises, or to a government agency about housing code violations relating to health and safety, organized or become a member of a tenant’s union, or exercised any other lawful right or remedy. Read § 34-18-46 for further provisions.
- Landlord to Pay Moving Costs for Non-compliant Housing: If the landlord rents out a unit that is not compliant with applicable zoning or minimum housing codes, the landlord must pay the moving costs (to a place within the same city or town) of any tenants required to move because of the nonconformity of the apartment with the law. (§ 34-18-22.2)
- Lead Disclosure: Landlords must disclose all known lead paint hazards. Landlords must also provide tenants, as an attachment to a written lease, with an information pamphlet on lead-based paint hazards.
- Rhode Island Small Claims Court
- Statute of Limitations
- Rhode Island Judiciary
- Rhode Island Attorney General
- Rhode Island Bar Association
- Legal Aid:
- 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)
- Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation
- Rhode Island Division of Insurance Regulation
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Rhode Island
- Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation – Real Estate
- REALTORS® Associations
- Landlord Associations