Everything you always wanted to know . . . and more about Rhode Island Landlord/Tenant Law

LANDLORD’S RIGHTS & OBLIGATIONS UNDER THE RHODE ISLAND LANDLORD TENANT ACT 

                  I.
                  
SCREENING TENANTS
 

A.    Credit Report – Join credit bureau if you manage a large number of units. 

B.     Review court (District and Municipal) records or contact a screening service. 

C.     Meet the tenants (face to face)

1.      Get copies of driver’s licenses.

2.      Get employment and bank account information. 

D.    Corporations & Partnerships 

1.      Corporations: get personal guarantees, Certificates of Good Standing, Corporate votes and authorizations.

2.      Partnerships – all partners should sign individually and as partner. 

E.     Discrimination 

1.      What you can and can’t ask

2.      Bases for rejecting a prospective tenant 

F.      Fair Housing Rules 

1.      What is a disability?

2.      Duty to make “reasonable” accommodations 

G.     Section 8 and Subsidized Rentals

II.
               
LEASE PROVISIONS
 

A.    Prohibited provisions ( RIGL §34-18-17): 

1.      Can’t require tenant to waive rights

2.      Can’t require tenant to confess to a Judgment

3.      Can’t agree to limit Landlord’s liability

4.      Can’t agree to pay attorney’s fees inconsistent with the Act. 

B.     Landlords who try to enforce prohibited provisions may be liable for 3 times periodic rent (RIGL §34-18-17(b)). 

C.     Lease provisions should contain do’s and don’ts, and who pays for what. 

D.    Suggested Provisions: 

1.      Attorneys Fees

2.      Statement regarding ordinance provisions

3.      Indemnity agreement

4.      Assignment & subletting

5.      Pets

6.      Termination & renewal 

E.     Unsigned leases (RIGL §34-18-16): 

1.      If Landlord does not sign lease, but accepts rent, then lease is given same force and effect as if it had been signed. 

2.      If Tenant does not sign, but takes possession and pays rent, then lease is in effect. 

F.      Make Sure to Document the condition of the premises prior to the tenant taking possession!  Use a move-in checklist.
 

III.             SECURITY DEPOSITS     (RIGL §34-18-19) 

A.    Definition: “… a sum of money given by a tenant to a landlord at the outset of the tenancy or shortly thereafter, as a deposit against physical damage to the tenant’s dwelling unit during said tenancy.” (RIGL §34-18-11(16)) 

B.     Landlord may not collect a security deposit, however denominated, in excess of one month’s rent.  First and last months rent, plus a security deposit violates the Act! 

C.     Prepaid rent vs. Security Deposit 

D.    Landlord must account for the deposit in writing and return the appropriate amount due within 20 days after tenant vacates the dwelling or provides a forwarding address, whichever is later.  Failure to comply makes Landlord liable for 3 times the amount wrongfully withheld, plus attorneys’ fees.  (What if the tenant gives no forwarding address?  Mail the notice to the dwelling and the Post Office will forward to tenant or return.)

 

E.     Landlord may retain the security deposit for unpaid rent and physical damage beyond ordinary wear and tear. 

F.      On foreclosed properties, the new owner is not responsible to account for the deposit.  Tenant has a breach of contract action against old Landlord.

 

IV.            

I.                   DISCLOSURE AND REGISTRATION REQUIREMENTS


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130 Bellevue Avenue, Unit 2
Newport, RI 02840
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Fax: (401) 849-4330
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343 Main St # C Wakefield, RI 02879
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