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4/28/2023 Sen. Mack introduces tenant rights bill package
STATE HOUSE – Sen. Tiara Mack has introduced a package of legislation to address and strengthen tenants’ rights in Rhode Island.
“Rhode Island’s housing crisis is very real and it is having a devastating impact on too many residents, particularly renters, residents of color and individuals and families at the lower end of the economic spectrum.  These six bills will help strengthen tenants’ rights in order to keep them housed in safe and appropriate housing while also protecting them from discrimination, unfair costs, unsafe properties and neglectful landlords,” said Senator Mack (D-Dist. 6, Providence).
The first bill (2023-0911) in the package, sponsored by Senator Mack, creates a Tenant Bill of Rights, which would guarantee for all renters the right to legal counsel in court, the right to habitability, the right to organize, the right of first refusal if the landlord decides to sell the property, the right to equality and freedom from discrimination and the right to be free of eviction without good cause.  The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The House Judiciary Committee recently held a hearing on the House version of the Tenant Bill of Rights and over 44 individuals and groups offered their testimony for the legislation.
Senator Mack cosponsored the second bill (2023-S 0315), which was introduced by Senator Kallman (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, Providence), that would require all owners of rental property to file with the Secretary of State notice of their name, address, telephone number, email address and other information.  The bill has been referred to the Senate Housing and Municipal Government Committee.
Senator Mack believes that the legislation will help facilitate code enforcement and compliance with health and safety standards by making property ownership information more accessible to tenants, local and state agencies.
The third bill (2023-S 0306) would clarify the responsibilities of both the landlord and tenant with respect to the inspection and treatment of bed bugs in residential premises.  Cases of bed bug infestations have increased in recent years and it is nearly impossible to attribute where bed bugs come from and who is responsible so clarification of how to deal with a bed bug infestation is needed in law.  The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The fourth bill (2023-S 0365) would increases the amount of time of notice a residential landlord must give to a tenant prior to any rent increase.  Current state law requires a 30-day notice of rent increases even though 30 days is not enough time for individuals and families to adequately adjust their budgets to factor in increased housing costs or enough time to find a more appropriately priced apartment.  The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The fifth bill (2023-S 0311), sponsored by Senator Murray (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield) and cosponsored by Senator Mack, prohibits a landlord, lessor, sub-lessor, real estate broker, property management company, or designee to require or receive a fee for a rental application from a prospective tenant or tenant.  The bill has been referred to the Senate Housing and Municipal Government Committee.
Senator Mack states that with a tight housing market, many renters must apply at multiple properties and that these fees quickly add up, sometimes totaling in the hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars.  She also notes that currently, there is no limit to what a landlord can charge in application fees in Rhode Island.
The last bill (2023-S 0912) provides for the sealing of court files in residential eviction proceedings upon the filing of a motion.  Senator Mack notes that the legislation is critical because eviction rates are high in Rhode Island and increasing on a daily basis.  Publicly available eviction filing records do not reflect what actually happened and cases can be dismissed or resolved, but these records continually negatively impact the tenant for years, unfairly preventing them from getting suitable housing.  The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, Narragansett, South Kingstown) has introduced the legislation (2023-H 6323) in the House.
“Our state’s housing crisis did not develop overnight and these issues that are addressed in the legislative package have been ongoing for years.  But with housing affordably growing worse by the day, we cannot afford to wait a second more to rectify these serious problems that are often putting our residents in economic or physical danger.  These bills will protect the Rhode Islanders who have the least while also keeping them in safe, warm and dry housing,” concluded Senator Mack.

For more information, contact:
Andrew Caruolo, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903