Rhode Island Tenant Screening
Last Updated: February 4, 2015
Rhode Island was the first of the original Thirteen Colonies to declare independence from British rule, declaring itself independent on May 4, 1776, two months before any other colony. The state was also the last of the thirteen original colonies to ratify the United States Constitution.
How to Screen a Tenant in Rhode Island
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Step 1: Know Your Rights & Responsibilities
Landlords and property managers are subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act [PDF] (FCRA) during the tenant screening process. Additionally, Rhode Island has laws that affect the tenant screening process. You can find the current Rhode Island Housing Codes on the Rhode Island State Legislature website. If you are finding the formalities of the state code daunting, you might want to check out these friendlier sites:
Recent Law Changes
A New Rhode Island law protects tenants from eviction in foreclosures. After six years of organizing, mobilizing and protests, housing advocates won passage recently of a state “Just Cause” law, which prevents most foreclosing lenders from evicting tenants for no reason, only to board up empty buildings until they are sold to new owners. The Just Cause legislation, signed into law July 2014 by Governor Chafee, protects tenants who rent in one to four unit residential properties foreclosed by large lenders. The law became effective immediately.
Step 2: Required Forms & Disclosures
Tip: before you rent for the first time, consider hiring a lawyer to review all of the documents you will use during the application and rental process to ensure that you are protected to the fullest extent of the law.
- Rental Application [PDF] (this must be completed in full by the applicant prior to screening)
- Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act [PDF]
- Consumer Report Disclosure [PDF]
If you are ACCEPTING an applicant:
- Move-In Checklist [PDF]
- Lease Agreement (written), containing or attaching the following information:
- Owner/Agent Identity – this should include name and address, and if the owner/agent is out-of-state it must include contact information for a resident of the COUNTY in which the rental is located that can act as an agent for the purposes of serving notices and process.
- Security Deposit – this must include the amount of the deposit and the conditions under which some or all of the deposit may be withheld. It must also include the name and banking institution holding the deposit.
- Non-refundable Fees – explicitly describe any non-refundable fees, and state clearly that they are non-refundable.
- Fire Protection & Safety Information: You must disclose the available fire protection and safety information specific to the unit you are renting, including smoking policy, evacuation plans, and who to notify in case of emergency.
- Owner Or Agent Identity: Rhode Island landlords must disclose to the tenants in writing at or before the commencement of the tenancy the name and address of the person authorized to manage the premises, and an owner of the premises or a person authorized to act for and on behalf of the owner for the purpose of service of process and for the purpose of receiving notices and demands. (R.I. Gen. Laws 34-18-20)
- Code Violations: In Rhode Island, a landlord, prior to entering into any residential rental agreement, must inform a prospective tenant of any outstanding minimum housing code violations that exist on the building that is the subject of the rental agreement. (R.I. Gen. Laws 34-18-22.1)
If you are DECLINING an applicant:
- Adverse Action Notice [PDF]
Step 3: Order a Tenant Screening Report
What You’ll Need
- A completed rental application signed by the applicant.
- Some details about your applicant:
- Email address
- Date of birth
- Social Security number
- Previous address
- Bank account number (optional)
- Bank routing number (optional)
What Will Be Covered
- Package Options
- Background Report Coverage for Rhode Island:
- Criminal, OFAC/Patriot Act & Sex Offender Records – A nationwide search is always performed. These jurisdictions specifically are available in Rhode Island: RI Department Of Corrections, RI Sex Offender Registry.
- Eviction Records – records are available from the following counties: Bristol, Kent, Newport, Providence, Washington.
- Bankruptcies, Liens & Judgments – records are available from the following counties: Bristol, Kent, Newport, Providence, Washington.
- Social Security Number validation, Death Index, credit checks, previous addresses, alias names, and the Rent Check Advisor include all information available regardless of location.
Resources for Rhode Island Landlords
- Rhode Island State Bar Association Lawyer Referral
- Rhode Island Courts Directory
- Law Enforcement Agencies in Rhode Island (Wikipedia)