Rhode Island Rent Control Laws in 2024

Rhode Island does not have any statewide laws that impose rent control or limit how much landlords can raise rents each year. However, cities and towns in Rhode Island are allowed to enact limited forms of rent stabilization through ordinances.

While there is no rent control mandating permissible rent increases, landlords in Rhode Island must still follow laws regarding proper notice periods for raising rent and terminating tenancies.

Overall, Rhode Island is considered a landlord-friendly state without strong statewide tenant protections. But certain cities have implemented some policies aimed at stabilizing rents and mediating landlord-tenant disputes.

Landlords across Rhode Island should be aware of these local ordinances in addition to statewide laws on rental agreements, allowable reasons for eviction, security deposits, and discrimination protections.

Rent Increase Rules

Rhode Island does not have any statewide laws that limit or control how much a landlord can raise the rent on rental properties. Landlords have the right to raise rents to market rates when an existing lease term expires or for month-to-month tenants. 

However, landlords in Rhode Island must provide tenants with proper written notice before increasing rent on a rental unit. The required written notice is 45 days for any rent increase. The notice must state the new increased amount the tenant will be required to pay.

While Rhode Island landlords can raise rents to market rates, the rent increases cannot be considered unconscionable or retaliatory. Unconscionable means excessive or exorbitant increases that are well above the market rates in the area. Retaliatory means the landlord cannot raise the rent in response to a tenant exercising their legal rights, such as requesting repairs. If tenants believe a rent increase violates these protections, they may be able to challenge the landlord.

The lack of rent control laws in Rhode Island provides landlords with a lot of leeway when it comes to increasing rent. But following the proper notice requirements and avoiding unconscionable or retaliatory increases are important for staying on the right side of the law. Tenants should also understand their rights and have resources available if they need to dispute a rent increase.

Termination and Eviction Rules

Landlords in Rhode Island must provide tenants with proper written notice before terminating a lease or evicting a tenant. The required notice periods depend on the type of rental agreement:

  • For month-to-month tenancies, landlords must provide at least 30 days' written notice to the tenant before termination. 
  • For lease agreements of 6 months or longer, landlords must give at least 3 months' written notice to the tenant prior to termination.

These rules apply to both landlords choosing to end the rental agreement and situations where the landlord seeks to evict a tenant for nonpayment or other lease violations. Landlords cannot terminate a lease early or abruptly, even if the tenant has failed to pay rent or broken other lease clauses. 

The proper notice must be delivered in writing and spell out the reason for termination if applicable. Verbal notice or text messages are generally not sufficient. Landlords should follow up any verbal statements with formal written notices.

If a landlord fails to provide adequate written notice before terminating a month-to-month or long-term lease, the tenant may have legal recourse to fight the illegal eviction. Resources like the Rhode Island Center for Justice can provide tenants with assistance protecting their rights in such situations.

Security Deposits 

There are no statewide laws in Rhode Island that limit or cap the amount a landlord can charge for a security deposit. Landlords are free to require any security deposit amount they deem necessary. 

However, Rhode Island law does require that all security deposits collected from tenants must be held in a separate, interest-bearing escrow account. The deposits cannot be comingled with the landlord's other funds.

When a lease ends, landlords in Rhode Island have 20 days to return the security deposit along with an itemized list of any deductions taken for damages or unpaid rent. If costs for repairs exceed the amount of the deposit, the landlord can request additional funds from the tenant. But the landlord must document and justify these costs.

If a landlord fails to return the deposit or provide a list of deductions within 20 days, the tenant can sue to recover up to twice the amount of the deposit. Tenants should thoroughly document the condition of the unit when moving out to contest any unreasonable deductions.

Discrimination Protections

Landlords in Rhode Island cannot discriminate against tenants or prospective tenants based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, country of ancestral origin, disability, age, familial status, or status as a victim of domestic abuse.

The Rhode Island Fair Housing Practices Act prohibits housing discrimination based on any of these protected classes. Landlords are prohibited from refusing to rent, imposing different terms or conditions, or denying services or facilities to tenants who are members of protected classes.

Rhode Island law also provides additional protections for families with children. Landlords are prohibited from excluding or discriminating against families solely because they have children under the age of 18. Parents or legal guardians are allowed to occupy a rental unit with their minor children, and landlords who have policies against renting to families could face penalties under the Rhode Island Fair Housing Practices Act.

Tenants or prospective tenants who believe they have experienced discrimination from a landlord in Rhode Island can file a complaint with the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights. The Commission investigates allegations of housing discrimination and has the authority to award damages to aggrieved parties.

Renters' Rights Groups in Rhode Island

Rhode Island has two main organizations that provide support and advocacy for renters' rights across the state.

Rhode Island Center for Justice

The Rhode Island Center for Justice is a nonprofit public interest law firm that provides free legal assistance to low-income residents facing housing issues. They have staff attorneys who can advise tenants on their rights related to evictions, rent increases, housing discrimination, unsafe living conditions, and more. 

The Center for Justice also engages in advocacy and impact litigation to advance housing justice reforms at the state and local level. They were involved in drafting and lobbying for the statewide housing discrimination law that protects tenants from discrimination based on their source of income.

Rhode Island Housing

Rhode Island Housing is a self-supporting public agency that provides programs and resources related to affordable housing. They administer rental assistance vouchers, offer homebuyer education classes, provide loans for housing development, and engage in policy research and advocacy.

Their rental resource center provides information and referrals to support renters in finding affordable housing options. They have a listing of income-restricted properties across the state. Rhode Island Housing also educates tenants on their rights and responsibilities when renting.

Rental Assistance Programs

There are several rental assistance programs available to qualified Rhode Island residents to help make housing more affordable. Key programs include:

Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers

The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program provides rental assistance vouchers to eligible low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities. Section 8 vouchers can be used to rent market-rate housing from private landlords. The vouchers cover the difference between 30% of the household's adjusted gross income and the fair market rent set by HUD. There is often a long waitlist for Section 8 vouchers in Rhode Island.

State Rental Assistance Program (SRAP)

The State Rental Assistance Program provides temporary rental subsidies to very low-income families facing homelessness. SRAP is administered by Rhode Island Housing and provides short-term assistance to cover a security deposit or help meet rent payments in certain situations. Eligibility requirements include having income at or below 30% of the area median income. 

Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) Program

The Emergency Solutions Grants program provides funding to assist Rhode Islanders experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. ESG funds can help pay for rental application fees, security deposits, utility deposits and payments, moving costs, and short-term or medium-term rental assistance. ESG grants are administered by the Rhode Island Office of Housing and Community Development.

Cities with Rent Stabilization

While Rhode Island does not have statewide rent control, some individual cities have implemented forms of rent stabilization to provide tenants additional protections. The two most notable cities with rent control measures are Providence and New Shoreham.


Providence has a rental unit registration and mediation program that helps monitor rents and mediate disputes between landlords and tenants. Landlords in Providence are required to register all rental units and report information such as rent amounts, lease terms, and number of units. The registration data allows the city to track trends in the rental market.  

Providence also provides mediation services to help resolve issues related to rental rates and rent increases. If a tenant believes their landlord is raising rents excessively, they can file a request for mediation assistance. Mediators will work with both parties to come to a mutual agreement on rental rates. While not true rent control, this mediation process aims to protect tenants from large, unreasonable rent hikes.

New Shoreham

The town of New Shoreham, located on Block Island, has an ordinance that limits annual rent increases on residential properties to 5% or the Consumer Price Index, whichever is lower. This ordinance prevents landlords from raising rents by excessive amounts year to year. Tenants in New Shoreham have additional protections and recourse if their landlord attempts to increase rents beyond the allowable amount.

The rent stabilization measures in these two municipalities provide models that advocacy groups are working to expand to other cities and potentially statewide. But currently, Providence and New Shoreham remain the only two examples of local rent control in Rhode Island.

Resources for Landlords and Tenants

The [Rhode Island Attorney General's Office](https://riag.ri.gov/) provides an overview of landlord-tenant laws in Rhode Island including details on rental agreements, security deposits, discrimination, evictions, and more. This guide helps both landlords and tenants understand their rights and responsibilities under state laws.

The Attorney General's guide on landlord-tenant law provides a useful summary, but it is always best to consult the specific state statutes and consult a lawyer for legal advice in specific situations.

Landlords and tenants can also access standard lease agreements and rental application forms from sites like [EZ Landlord Forms](https://www.ezlandlordforms.com/). While generic lease agreements may not account for all local regulations, they provide a useful starting point. Any completed lease should follow state laws on required notices, rental increases, termination, returned deposits, and other important provisions impacting Rhode Island landlords and tenants.

Having a written lease protects both landlords and tenants by spelling out the rental terms. Landlords should customize the generic forms to include specific rules on pets, guests, smoking, and other factors important for their property. 

It's advisable for both parties to carefully review the full lease and seek legal counsel before signing. Understanding all the terms upfront prevents misunderstandings and helps ensure a positive landlord-tenant relationship built on clear communication and mutual respect.

Recent Legislative Efforts

While Rhode Island does not currently have any statewide rent control laws, there has been a growing effort in recent years to pass legislation that would implement some form of protections for tenants against excessive rent increases.

In 2021, a bill was introduced in the state legislature that would have limited annual rent increases for existing tenants to no more than 3% plus inflation. While it had support from tenant advocacy groups like the Rhode Island Tenants Union, the bill ultimately failed to gain enough traction and was not brought to a vote. 

Another 2021 proposal called the "Rhode Island Renters Protection Act" would have capped rent increases at 5% while also providing tax credits to smaller landlords, aiming to balance tenant and landlord interests. Backers argued it would prevent price gouging and displacement, but the real estate lobby strongly opposed it and the bill never made it out of committee.

Despite these failed attempts, activists believe public support is building for more tenant protections, especially in cities like Providence which have dealt with rapidly rising housing costs. Groups like the Rhode Island Housing Alliance are continuing to lobby state lawmakers and push for some form of legislation to implement rent stabilization statewide.

With housing affordability being a major issue, groups argue that Rhode Island is lagging behind other states like California, New York, and Oregon in providing safeguards for renters. They claim statewide rent regulations modeled after these states could help tenants remain in their homes when landlords arbitrarily raise rents to unaffordable levels.

While significant opposition remains from landlord groups like the RI Association of Realtors, the push for statewide rent stabilization is expected to continue in the Rhode Island legislature in coming years. Tenant advocacy organizations remain hopeful they can build on local efforts in cities like Providence to at some point enact broader protections.

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