Rep. Jennifer Stewart (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket) has introduced two pieces of legislation that would limit rent increases and extend the amount of notice required before a rent increase goes into effect.
The first bill (2023-H 5691) would prohibit a landlord from increasing the rent for a residential property more than once annually. Violation of this provision would be deemed a deceptive trade practice and subject to penalties.
“A two-bedroom apartment in Rhode Island in 2012 cost an average of $1,485 a month, according to Rhode Island Housing,” said Representative Stewart. “By 2022, that same apartment went up to an average of $1,996, and that number continues to climb. This legislation will protect Rhode Island tenants from sudden and arbitrary rent increases. Thousands of renters in Rhode Island experienced a reduction in income due to the pandemic; that, coupled with increased utility costs and runaway inflation, has created a rent burden that most Rhode Islanders cannot afford. We need to put these protections in place to help ease that burden.”
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recommends households spend no more than 30% of their income on housing, including utilities. Average Rhode Islanders living in the Providence metro area are putting nearly 32% of their income toward paying rent. A report released by Realtor.com ranks Providence-Warwick ninth out of the nation’s top 50 metro areas when it comes to rental burdens.
The second bill (2023-H 5362) would require that landlords of residential properties must give tenants notice of a rent increase at least 120 days prior to the effective date of the increase. The act would also increase the notice requirement for rent increases for a month-to-month tenant who is over the age of 62 to at least 150 days. A violation would be a misdemeanor and would be punishable by a fine of $500. Similar legislation (2023-S 0365) has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Tiara Mack (D-Dist. 6, Providence).
“The other side of this legislative package is giving tenants more time to deal with rent increases,” said Representative Stewart. “Sudden rent hikes can be overwhelming — especially for those who are just scraping by. Giving those tenants more time to adjust their finances would also help to ease that burden and slow down the eviction process.”
Both bills have been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, which is scheduled to hear testimony on both bills tonight at the rise of the House (about 4:30 p.m.) in Room 101 on the first floor of the State House.
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