This is a summary of Rhode Island Landlord-Tenant laws that apply to residential (non-commercial) rentals. These references were compiled from the Rhode Island Public Laws and various online sources to serve as a reference and for people wanting to learn about Rhode Island landlord-tenant laws, Rhode Island eviction laws, and Rhode Island renters’ rights.
However, this guide is not comprehensive and PayRent does not warrant the accuracy of this information. Statutes can change any time the state legislature passes a new law. Additionally, counties and cities may have different regulations. Given its limitations, this guide is not an adequate substitute for legal advice from a knowledgeable lawyer. If you are dealing with a landlord-tenant issue, you seek guidance from a qualified attorney. If you need help finding an attorney, we’ve included a list of attorney referral services in this guide.
Rules and Regulations Governing Rhode Island Landlord-Tenant Laws
Rhode Island Lease Terms Provisions
- What is the maximum allowable security deposit?
The security deposit cannot exceed one month’s rent. (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-19(a))
- Are security deposits required to earn interest?
No. There is no Rhode Island law requiring security deposits to earn interest.
- Do landlords need to store security deposits in a separate bank account?
No. There is no Rhode Island law requiring security deposits to be stored in a separate bank account.
- Are non-refundable fees, such as pet fees, prohibited?
No. There is no Rhode Island law forbidding non-refundable fees or limiting the amount that landlords can charge.
- How long do landlords have to return security deposits?
20 days after termination or delivery of possession of the premises, provided the tenant left the landlord a forwarding address. (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-19(b)
- Can landlords withhold security deposits?
Yes. Landlords can use the deposit to cover accrued rent, repair any damages to the property, cleaning expenses, and removal of any trash. (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-19(b))
- Are landlords required to itemize damages and fees deducted from security deposits?
Yes. An itemized list, detailing the amount withheld must be provided to the tenant along with any remaining security deposit funds within 20 days of the end of the lease. (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-19(b))
- Do landlords have to issue receipts upon receiving security deposits?
No. There is no Rhode Island law requiring landlords to issue receipts for security deposits.
- Are there any specific requirements for record-keeping for deposit withholdings?
No. There is no Rhode Island law specifying record-keeping requirements.
- What happens when a landlord does not return a security deposit within the required timeframe?
A landlord must pay double the amount that is wrongfully withheld, as well as reasonable attorney’s fees. (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-19(b))
- Is there a cap on how much landlords can charge for rent? (rent control)
No. There are no rent control laws in Rhode Island.
- When is rent due?
Rent is due at the time and place agreed upon by the landlord and tenant. Unless they agree to a different arrangement, rent is due at the beginning of the month and will be paid in equal monthly installments. (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-15(c))
- Does rent need to be paid using a certain method of payment?
No. There is no Rhode Island law requiring a certain payment method for rent.
- Can landlords charge late fees when rent is late?
Yes. There is no Rhode Island law forbidding late fees or limiting the amount that landlords can charge.
- Do landlords have to allow for a grace period for paying rent before charging late fees?
No. There is no Rhode Island law requiring a grace period before assessing late fees.
- Can landlords charge application fees?
Yes. There is no Rhode Island law forbidding application fees or limiting the amount that landlords can charge.
- Can landlords charge returned check fees?
If after a check bounces and 30 days after a landlord demands proper payment, the tenant still has not remedied the check, the landlord can charge three times the amount of the check plus $25, so long as the total amount is less than $1,000. (R.I.P.L. § 6-42-3)
Rhode Island Landlord-Tenant Relations
- Are landlords required to provide tenants with notice of rent increases between lease terms?
Yes. A landlord must provide at least 30 days’ notice of a coming increase. If a month-to-month tenant is aged 62 or older, Rhode Island requires 60 days’ notice of any rent increases. (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-16.1)
- Are landlords required to provide tenants with notice of pesticide use on the property?
No. There is no Rhode Island law requiring landlords to provide tenants with notice of pesticide use on the rental property.
- What notice is required to terminate a fixed-end lease?
No notice is required — the lease ends on the date stated in the lease.
- What notice is required to terminate a week-to-week periodic tenancy?
Either the landlord or the tenant can terminate the tenancy with 10 days’ written notice. (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-37(a))
- What notice is required to terminate a month-to-month periodic tenancy?
Either the landlord or the tenant can terminate the tenancy with 30 days’ written notice. (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-37(b))
- Is notice of the date and time of the move out inspection required?
There is no statute in Rhode Island law covering this issue.
- When can landlords enter the rental premises with notice? To inspect the premises.
- To make necessary or agreed to repairs, decorations, alterations, or improvements.
- To supply necessary or agreed services.
- To show the unit to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, tenants, workmen, or contractors.
- Pursuant to a court order
- If the tenant has abandoned or surrendered the premises
- A failure by the tenant to maintain the premises in a way that materially affects health and safety. (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-26)
- What notice must a landlord give a tenant before entering the rental unit?
The landlord must provide 2 days notice of intent to enter unless impracticable, and can only enter at reasonable times. (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-26(c))
- When can landlords enter the rental premises without providing notice to their tenants?
- In case of an emergency.
- When the tenant has been absent from the property for more than 7 days without notice. (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-26(b))
Landlord’s Duties (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-22)
- Landlords must comply with applicable building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety.
- Landlords must make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a habitable condition.
- Landlords must keep all common areas of the premises in a clean and safe condition.
- Landlords must maintain in good and safe working order all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and other facilities and appliances, including elevators, supplied or required to be supplied by the landlord.
- Landlords must provide and maintain appropriate receptacles for the removal of garbage and arrange for their removal.
- Landlords must supply running water and reasonable amounts of hot water at all times and reasonable heat.
- Landlords must ensure that any alterations to the premises conform with zoning and minimum housing laws.
Tenant’s Duties (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-24)
- Tenants must comply with all obligations imposed upon tenants by building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety.
- Tenants must keep that part of the premises that the tenant occupies and uses as clean and safe as the condition of the premises permits.
- Tenants must dispose of all ashes, garbage, rubbish, and other waste cleanly and safely.
- Tenants must keep all plumbing fixtures as clean as their condition permits.
- Tenants must use all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and other facilities and appliances including elevators in the premises in a reasonable manner;
- Tenants must not deliberately or negligently destroy, deface, damage, impair, or remove any part of the premises; or knowingly, recklessly, or negligently permit any person to do so.
- Tenants and their guests must conduct themselves in a manner that will not disturb the neighbors’ peaceful enjoyment of the premises.
- Tenants must refrain from using the premises for illegal drug activity.
- Tenants must not commit any crimes of violence on the premises.
Required Landlord Disclosures
- Landlords are required to disclose in writing the names and business addresses of:
- the person authorized to manage the premises.
- the owner of the premises or a person authorized to act for and on behalf of the owner for service of process and receiving notices. (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-20)
- Landlords are required to disclose any outstanding housing code violations at the start of the lease, and to notify the tenant of any further violations within 30 days of receiving notice. (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-22.1)
- 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 Renters’ Rights
- What are Rhode Island renters’ rights if landlords breach their duties? (See Landlord’s Duties)
If a landlord’s failure to comply with the rental agreement or their legal duties causes the tenant to be without heat, running water, hot water, electric, gas, or any other essential service, the tenant may give the landlord reasonable notice of the breach. If the breach goes unremedied, the tenant may remedy the breach themselves and deduct the cost of repairs from the rent, or recover damages based on the diminution of fair rental value, or procure reasonable housing, at the landlord’s cost, while the breach is unremedied. (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-31)
- Are tenants allowed to withhold rent for needed repairs or other breaches of their landlords’ duties?
Yes, if the reasonable cost of the repair is $125 or less, the tenant can affect the repair and deduct the amount from the rent, once the tenant has notified the landlord of the issue and gives the landlord 20 days to remedy. The tenant must submit an itemized receipt. (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-30)
- What are the protections for tenants against retaliation from their landlords for exercising their Rhode Island renter’s rights?
Rhode Island law prohibits landlords from increasing rent, decreasing services, or bringing or threatening to bring an action for possession if the tenant has complained to a governmental agency, complained to the landlord about a breach of landlord’s duties, or if the tenant becomes a member of a tenant’s union or similar organization. (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-46)
Rhode Island Eviction Laws
- What are the reasons that landlords can evict tenants under Rhode Island eviction laws?
- What notice do Rhode Island eviction laws require that landlords provide tenants before starting the eviction process?
- For evictions based on non-payment of rent, after 15 days, the landlord can make a demand for the rent due within 5 days. Unless the tenant cures the arrearage within the 5 days, the landlord can begin an eviction action. The tenant has a right to cure the breach by paying the full amount of back rent along with court costs at any time prior to or at the hearing. (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-35)
- For evictions based on non-compliance with the rental agreement or a breach in the tenant’s duties, Rhode Island requires 20 days’ notice prior to termination and allows the tenant to remedy the breach within these 20 days to prevent termination, (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-36)
- For evictions based on illegal activity, landlords do not have to provide notice before starting the eviction process. (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-36)
- Do Rhode Island eviction laws allow landlords to use “self-help eviction” methods, such as locking a tenant out of the rental unit or shutting off the utilities?
No. If a landlord evicts a tenant using self-help methods, the tenant can choose to recover possession or terminate the lease. Tenants can recover the greater of three months’ rent or the actual damages sustained and reasonable attorney’s fees. (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-34)
- Are landlords permitted to recover damages from an evicted tenant?
Yes. In Rhode Island, a landlord can recover actual damages, and, if the tenant’s noncompliance is willful, attorney’s fees, from an eviction action. (R.I.P.L. § 34-18-36(d))
COVID-19 Changes to Rhode Island Landlord-Tenant Laws
- The CDC has passed a national eviction ban through December 31, 2020, that prohibits landlords from evicting tenants who meet the following criteria for nonpayment:
- Have used their best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent.
- Expect to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return).
- Are unable to pay their full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of income or employment, or extraordinary medical bills.
- If evicted, will have no other housing options.
- The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act requires landlords to provide a 30-day notice to tenants before eviction. However, the CARES Act only applies to properties that are supported by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), or the United States Treasury (Low Income Housing Tax Credit), and properties with federally-backed mortgages, such as FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac.
- Rhode Island Judiciary
- Rhode Island Attorney General
- 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
Attorney Referral Services
Realtor and Landlord-Tenant Associations