In a bid to alleviate the financial strain on renters, Representative Jennifer Stewart has introduced legislation that aims to provide Rhode Island tenants with more time to prepare for impending rent hikes. The proposed bill, labeled 2024-H 7304, mandates landlords to furnish a 90-day notice for any rent increment, extending it to 120 days for tenants aged 62 and above. The current law stipulates a 30-day notice period for general tenants and 60 days for those over 62.
Expressing the urgency of the legislation, Representative Stewart highlighted the challenges faced by individuals living paycheck-to-paycheck and already burdened by rent costs. “Our current law does not recognize today’s rental conditions in which it is so hard to find affordable apartments and in which families are faced with double-digit percentage rent increases,” said Representative Stewart, who represents District 59 in Pawtucket. The bill, she explained, aims to provide renters with the opportunity to adjust budgets, seek additional employment, or accumulate a security deposit, ultimately reducing stress for families by granting them more time to plan for their housing situation.
The legislation, now part of the Working Families Agenda, a comprehensive set of legislative proposals addressing various aspects of family life, focuses on ensuring affordable housing, safe transportation, and meeting the needs of families. According to HousingWorksRI, nearly half of Rhode Island renters, accounting for 47 percent statewide, are considered cost-burdened by housing, spending over 30% of their income on rent.
The current tight rental market, coupled with rent increases outpacing income growth, often places renters in challenging situations. The average cost of renting a two-bedroom apartment statewide is $1,996, requiring a household income of $79,840 for affordability. However, the median household income among Rhode Island renters stands at only $41,277.
Representative Stewart introduced the bill on January 26, assigning it to the House Judiciary Committee. Notably, she had sponsored a similar bill last year, which passed the House but faced hurdles in the Senate. The Senate has its counterpart legislation, 2024-S 2189, introduced by Senator Tiara Mack from District 6 in Providence. The coordinated effort in both chambers underscores the bipartisan commitment to address the challenges faced by renters in Rhode Island.
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