In Rhode Island, landlords may request a security deposit to cover the cost of unpaid rent and damage caused by negligence. Keep in mind that this money belongs to the tenant, even though it is in the landlord's possession.
This is why it is important to take note of the laws that control the use of these funds. In Rhode Island, RI Gen L § 34-18-19 governs the control of these deposits.
In this article, we will provide all the information you need to ensure that you always adhere to Rhode Island landlord-tenant laws.
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Now, let’s dive in.
Charging security deposits in Rhode Island is perfectly legal. However, Rhode Island state law restricts the amount that may be collected.
The maximum security deposit in Rhode Island is the equivalent of one month's rent. Moreover, if the value of the furniture exceeds $5,000, rented properties that come equipped may need an extra furniture security deposit. Like the general security deposit, the furniture deposit is equal to one month's periodic rent.
Landlords are permitted by Rhode Island law to request an extra pet deposit. This money is intended to be used to cover any damages caused by the tenant's pets. Except for people who own service animals, there is no cap on pet deposits. The Federal Fair Housing Act stipulates that those with disabilities that rely on service animals may not be treated unfairly.
As a result, a Rhode Island landlord cannot discriminate against the renter for having a service animal and vice versa. The renter is responsible for covering any costs incurred as a result of the service animal's destruction of the leased property.
Security deposit deductions may only be made once the tenant vacates the rental property. In accordance with Rhode Island landlord-tenant laws, landlords are permitted to make the following deductions:
- Reasonable cleaning expenses
- Unpaid rent
- The cost to repair damages caused by the tenant's negligence
- Trash disposal expenses
- Other costs that may be stipulated in the rental agreement
Keep in mind that a landlord in Rhode Island may not deduct for normal wear and tear, which we discuss in more detail later in this article.
Landlords have 20 days in which to return the remaining security deposit. The security deposit must be accompanied by a written itemized statement of the damages incurred. Written notice must be mailed to the tenant's forwarding address within the allotted time frame, which starts on the termination date specified in the lease agreement.
According to Rhode Island security deposit laws, furniture deposits must always be refunded using the same method as the security deposit within 20 days after the end of the lease, less any necessary cleaning or repair costs.
The landlord is required to reimburse the security deposit if the property suffers significant impairment to enjoyment due to a fire.
Normal Wear & Tear
According to landlord-tenant laws, Rhode Island landlords are not permitted to deduct damages that may be considered normal wear and tear at the termination of the tenancy.
Normal wear and tear refers to the natural deterioration of a rental unit that happens over time as a result of everyday use. These damages are not caused by negligent or accidental activity by the tenant or their guests, but rather, as a result of intended use.
If destruction occurs because of an accident, negligence, misuse, or abuse, then this is considered deductible damages.
Here are other regulations you need to understand:
- Interest accrued. Rhode Island landlord-tenant laws do not require landlords to give any interest earned on security deposits to renters at the termination of the tenancy.
- Holding security deposits. Unlike many states in the US, Rhode Island doesn't enforce rules that require landlords to store security deposits separately from other money.
- Receipts. According to Rhode Island law, landlords do not have to provide a receipt after collecting a security deposit.
Selling Rental Property
Rhode Island landlord-tenant law details how security deposit must be handled if a rental unit is sold before the end of the tenancy. Suppose the original landlord or previous owner of the property is in possession of a tenant's security deposit at the termination of the lease. In that case, it is his or her duty to return the security deposit due to the tenant.
The truth is that security deposits in Rhode Island are not immediately regarded as income after being paid at the start of a lease. They only turn into taxable income after the landlord is no longer required to return them. At this stage, they might also be eligible for a tax write-off.
When collecting, holding, and returning a tenant's security deposit, it is important to understand Rhode Island law. Now that you know what is expected of you, you're on your way to running a successful business and enjoying a stress-free tenancy.
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If you require more information about Rhode Island landlord-tenant laws, please see Residential Landlord and Tenant Act here.
Can the security deposit be used to cover the last month's rent in Rhode Island if it is not specified in the rental agreement?
No. Rhode Island landlord-tenant laws state that only if both parties have agreed on the rental contract can a Rhode Island security deposit be utilized as the final month's rent. Alternatively, the security deposit and any unpaid rent must be handled separately.
What happens if a landlord fails to return a security deposit on time? If a landlord refuses to refund a tenant's security deposit, there will be consequences.
If a landlord refuses to refund a tenant's security deposit, there will be consequences.
A Rhode Island tenant has the right to reclaim the withheld monies, twice the amount as damages, as well as any court costs incurred in retrieving the security deposit and furniture deposit if the landlord declines or neglects to do so within the 20-day period. In Small Claims Court, the renter may file a lawsuit for the security deposit of up to $2,500.
Can I charge an additional furniture security deposit?
Yes. Rhode Island law allows landlords to collect an additional deposit if the rental unit is furnished. This deposit is to be used to cover any losses or damages to the furnishings.
Are move-in checklists a requirement in Rhode Island?
The creation of a condition declaration or inventory checklist by landlords at the start of a lease term is unnecessary in Rhode Island. However, it is advisable to make sure that all parties are in agreement regarding any charges to be made to the security deposit at the termination of the lease.