If you are renting a property in Rhode Island or looking for a place to rent, you will probably need to sign the lease agreement before doing so.
A Rhode Island lease agreement is a legally binding document that outlines the rights and duties of the landlord (lessor) and the tenant (lessee) concerning the residential or commercial property lease.
The process will start with the tenant viewing the property, after which the landlord and tenant make a verbal agreement. The tenant then submits the rental application with all the relevant personal, financial, and employment information.
The landlord can also do a background check on the prospective tenant. If the reviewing phase finishes successfully, the landlord starts the lease agreement drafting process.
Rhode Island Lease Agreement Required Disclosures
Federal and state laws have declared a few disclosures that must be included in every lease agreement for the property located in Rhode Island. Namely:
Lead-based paint disclosure. This disclosure informs the tenant about the presence of lead-based paint at the leased property. It must be included in a lease agreement for every property built before 1978 or if there is a known presence of lead-based paint. (Section 1018 of Title X)
Owner and manager identity disclosure. Every lease agreement in Rhode Island must include the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the property manager and owner. It must also disclose information about any agents of the property owner authorized to represent them and receive notices and requests from the tenant. (§ 34-18-20)
Housing code violation disclosure. If the landlord violates the state or housing code, the violation must be disclosed to the tenant within 30 days. This disclosure is not mandatory if the violation can be corrected within the same 30-day period. (§ 34-18-22.1)
Rhode Island Lease Agreement Optional Disclosures
To minimize their liability and prevent any future disputes between them, many contractual parties include additional disclosures in their lease agreement, such as:
Mold disclosure. Before the tenant moves in, the landlord shall inform the tenant about any mold on the property. This limits the landlord's liability if any damage is caused to the tenants' property due to the mold.
Move-in checklist. This checklist contains all the items and furnishings at the leased property and lists any damages present before the tenant moves in. Both the landlord and the tenant should sign the checklist. The main benefit of it is that it makes the move-out process much faster and prevents any damage disputes.
Smoking disclosure. The landlord can allow or forbid smoking at the leased property or provide designated areas at the property where smoking is allowed.
Consequences of Non-Disclosure
If the landlord fails to provide the lead-based paint disclosure, they can be fined up to $19,507, according to the Federal Civil Penalties Act.
Additionally, the tenant can file a civil lawsuit against the landlord for any damages caused by the health and safety hazards that were not properly disclosed in the lease agreement.
Rhode Island Lease Agreement Security Deposits
Security Deposit Maximum
Rhode Island statute stipulates that the landlord cannot ask for more than one month’s rent as the security deposit. (§ 34-18-19(a))
Security Deposit Return
The tenant must get their security deposit back within 20 days after the lease ends, or the landlord takes back the property, or the tenant provides a new forwarding address.
The landlord can deduct any unpaid rent from the security deposit or make deductions for cleaning and repairs. If any deductions are made, the landlord must send the list of all deductions, together with the remaining deposit. (§ 34-18-19(b))
When is Rent Due in Rhode Island? (Grace Period)
The rent payment due date is usually agreed upon between the landlord and the tenant and included in the lease agreement. If there is no such due date provided by the contractual parties, the rent is usually payable at the beginning of the month.
State laws established a 15-day grace period for the rent payment in Rhode Island. That means that no late fees can be charged, and no eviction can be initiated 15 days after the due date. (§ 34-18-35(a))
Even after the grace period, the landlord must issue the tenant a 5-day notice to pay or quit before starting the eviction process.
Rhode Island Rent Late Fees
There is no limit on the late rent payment fee in Rhode Island. However, the late fee cannot be legally charged if it’s not properly disclosed in the lease agreement.
Rhode Island NSF Checks
If the check is returned due to insufficient funds, the landlord shall ask the tenant for the payment. If the check is not paid within 30 days after the notice, the landlord is eligible for compensation. (§ 6-42-3)
The compensation includes:
Compensation for NSF Checks
The check amount
A $25 collection fee
An amount equal to 3 times the check value, but no less than $200 and no more than $1000
Rhode Island Landlord’s Right to Enter
The landlord must give the tenant at least a 2-day notice before visiting the property. This rule is not implemented in an emergency. (§ 34-18-26)
The landlord shall also visit the property only at reasonable times. The law doesn’t further provide the reasonable time, but in practice, it is considered to be the period between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Rhode Island Lease Agreement FAQ
Yes, the lease agreement is a legally binding document in Rhode Island.
The lease agreement has to be signed by only one party to be enforceable. If the landlord doesn’t sign the lease agreement but accepts the rent, it will have the same effect as if they had signed it. In case the tenant doesn’t sign the lease agreement but moves into the property and pays the rent, it will still be enforceable as if they had signed it. (§ 34-18-16)
The lease agreements that are not signed by both parties are valid for only one year.
Most lease agreements in Rhode Island follow the outline below :
Names and addresses of all the contractual parties
Information about the property (size, address, number of rooms)
A detailed description of the items and appliances at the property and their condition.
Rent amount and payment due date
Deposit amount and late fees (if applicable)
Mandatory disclosures required by federal and state laws
Other disclosures provided by contractual parties (optional)
Rights and duties of the landlord and the tenant
Date and place of contract signing
Signatures of the contractual parties
Here you can find many downloadable Rhode Island lease agreement templates.
By downloading one of our lease agreement templates, you will be sure your lease agreement is in line with all the current federal and state laws and regulations.
After signing the lease agreement, you should start the move-in procedure.
Both the landlord and the tenant should inspect the leased property together and ensure there are no additional repairs or cleaning needed at the property.
After the inspection, they both sign the move-in form, the tenant pays the security deposit and first month's rent, and the landlord enables the tenant to access and use the property.