Attorney discussing Rhode Island's landlord-tenant laws to client.

An Overview of Rhode Island’s Landlord-tenant Laws

Every landlord and tenant should have a basic understanding of their state’s laws governing the landlord-tenant relationship. In the case of Rhode Island, the residential landlord-tenant relationship is governed by R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 34-18-1 to 34-18-57 and the commercial landlord-tenant relationship is governed by R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 34-18.1. The laws themselves are complex and often ill-defined. Worse, some of the landlord-tenant relationships are governed by court decisions, which can be difficult to identify and fully understand. Landlords and tenants should be aware of the following laws that apply to the landlord-tenant relationship in Rhode Island:

Required Disclosures by the Landlord

In Rhode Island, landlords must disclose to the tenant in writing:

  • Any person authorized to act on behalf of the landlord
  • Any person authorized to manage the premises
  • The proper person for the purpose of service of process or receiving and receipting notices and demands

Security Deposit Limits and Returns

Rhode Island law states that the residential security deposit cannot exceed more than one month’s rent. Once the lease terminates or has been terminated, the landlord has 20 days to return the deposit less any allowed deductions for reasonable expenses such as repairs, cleaning, etc. If the landlord does not return the security deposit as required, the tenant may file a claim in Rhode Island’s small claims court if the amount is $2,500 or less. In some cases, the tenant may be entitled to punitive damages. 

Rent-related Rules

When increasing rent, the landlord must give at least 30-days notice of the rental increase prior to the increased rent becoming effective. Landlords should note that Rhode Island requires the notice of a rental increase to be at least 60 days when the tenant is 63 years of age or older. 

Tenant’s Right to Withhold Rent

In Rhode Island, tenants may withhold a small amount of rent as further explained the RIGL 34-18 if the property fails to meet the standards set out in the landlord-tenant laws. If the landlord fails to properly complete important repairs in a timely manner, tenants can exercise their right to “repair and deduct.” This means that a tenant may hire someone to repair a broken hot water heater and deduct the cost from the rent. 

Lease Termination and Eviction

Landlords may terminate a month-to-month tenancy by giving at least 30-days notice prior to the vacation date. For week-to-week tenancies, the notice period is at least 10 days, and for year-to-year tenancies, the notice period is at least 3 months. 

Landlord’s Access to Property

Rhode Island requires landlords to give written notice at least 2-days notice to the tenant prior to entering the property. Landlords cannot freely access leased properties. 

Landlord-tenant Lawyers in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut

At PALUMBO LAW, we represent landlords in landlord-tenant disputes and provided legal counsel to investors on handling tenant issues. State landlord-tenant laws are complex – compliance with the laws can make or break an investment. If you have questions pertaining to the landlord-tenant relationship, or real estate investing more generally, please contact our office to set up a consultation or complete the contact form. Our experienced attorneys have successfully helped hundreds of real estate investors navigate the complex landlord-tenant laws in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.