On April 15, 2021 Governor McKee signed a new law that prohibits housing discrimination based on the buyer’s or tenant’s “lawful source of income.” The law went into effect on the same day that it was signed. Rhode Island now joins Connecticut, Massachusetts, and a number of other states that lower the barriers for holders of vouchers and other forms of assistance to find housing. You can read the bills here: law21003 (state.ri.us) law21004 (state.ri.us)
The Rhode Island Association of REALTORS® invites you to attend a free presentation via Zoom from 9 –10 a.m. on Thursday, May 6th.
Our panel will discuss
- The requirements of the new anti-discrimination law;
- Section 8 approval process for rental units;
- Voucher requirements and assistance from Rhode Island Housing for landlords;
- Benefits of Section 8 and other vouchers for landlords;
- Working with Section 8 as a property manager or rental agent.
What does this mean for REALTORS® and their clients?
Landlords can no longer reject a rental applicant just because he/she has a housing voucher, such as Section 8, or receives other forms of government assistance. Landlords may continue to screen tenants based on credit, references, eviction history and the ability to pay his/her portion of the rent and security deposit. Owner-occupied two- and three-unit dwellings are exempt from the new law.
What does “lawful source of income” include?
This includes any income, benefit or subsidy from:
- child support;
- Social Security;
- Supplemental Security Income;
- other federal, state, or local public assistance programs, such as medical or veterans’ assistance, or;
- any federal, state, or local rental assistance or housing subsidy program, including Section 8 Housing Choice vouchers and any requirement associated with the assistance or program.
Does the law require a landlord to automatically select a rental applicant who receives Section 8 or other type of rental assistance voucher?
No. A landlord continues to have the right to select the most qualified applicant for his/her rental unit. The new law simply requires that a landlord not use discriminatory advertising or automatically reject an applicant based on his/her lawful source of income.
A landlord can still legally reject an applicant because of:
- a low credit score;
- record of felony conviction(s);
- eviction history;
- inability to pay his/her share of the rent and security deposit;
- bad or no references, or;
- the number of applicants exceeds state minimum square footage requirements or the legal capacity of a septic system.
What is considered “discrimination” under the new law?
Landlords, rental agents, and property managers can no longer:
- advertise “no Section 8” or “no vouchers”;
- refuse to show a rental unit to an applicant with a voucher or other form of government assistance ;
- falsely tell a voucher holder that a unit has already been rented;
- impose different rent or terms on a voucher holder, or;
- refuse to comply with the requirements of a voucher program by not submitting paperwork to a housing authority or not bringing a rental unit into compliance with required standards.
For more information, please contact the RIAR Legal Department at 401-432-6945 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.