With the financial crisis, the housing market has experienced over the last 3 years, people are finding it hard to secure a loan for a mortgage. As a result, more people than ever are discovering themselves to be property renters rather than property owners. Rhode Island may be the biggest little state in the union, but it has felt the cold hard punch of the housing crunch just like the rest of the country has. Here’s a brief overview of landlord tenant laws in Rhode Island that every landlord and tenant should familiarize themselves with.
The Rental Agreement
Rental agreements in Rhode Island can be either written or oral; though written is always better.
Interestingly, although the tenant and landlord both must agree on the terms of the rental agreement, only one signature from either party is necessary (though the other party must receive a copy and agree to the terms) in order to make the agreement legal and binding.
A rental agreement in Rhode Island, as well as everywhere else, cannot be written so as to make a tenant waive his or her rights as they are provided by local, state and federal law.
Likewise, the agreement cannot allow a landlord to waive or place a limit on his or her legal obligations as spelled out in the law.
In the state of Rhode Island, a landlord must provide a tenant with at least a 30 day written notice of his or her intent to raise the rent. This holds true whether the rental agreement is a week-to-week agreement or a month-to-month agreement. If the rental agreement provides for longer tenancies the landlord must give at least 30 days’ written notification prior to the expiration of the rental agreement that is in force at the time of the notification.
Early Termination of Rental Agreement
Either party subject to the rental agreement may, for any reason, terminate the agreement early by adhering to the following:
For a week-to-week agreement, the party who is terminating the agreement must send the other party a written notice via first class mail that is postmarked no less than 10 days prior to the specified termination date.
For a month-to-month tenancy, or an agreement of any term that is less than a year, the same process as a week-to-week tenancy must be adhered to with the exception that notice must be given to the other party 30 days prior to the termination date.
A year-to-year agreement can be terminated with a first class, written notification that is postmarked no less than 3 months prior to the termination date.
An elderly (age 65 or older) tenant may terminate a rental agreement if they are entering a residential care/assisted living facility, a nursing facility, or a private or public housing complex designated by the federal government as housing for the elderly.
Note: Early termination of a rental agreement does not necessarily relieve a tenant of their financial obligation as spelled out in the agreement.
For a complete rundown of Rhode Island tenant-landlord laws see the Rhode Island Landlord Tenant Handbook.