April 1, 2021 — Is it legal for a landlord to refuse to rent to a rental applicant because he or she has a Section 8 voucher? At this point, yes. However, the Rhode Island House and Senate recently approved legislation that would prohibit discrimination based on an applicant’s lawful source of income, bringing Rhode Island one step closer to our neighbors in Connecticut and Massachusetts who already prohibit such discrimination. At this point, the companion bills must be heard in both chambers and receive the Governor’s signature before becoming law. Lawful sources of income include housing assistance, Social Security, disability, worker’s compensation, child support and other legal income. You can follow updates on this legislation on the RI Realtors legislative tracker.
With this legislation in place, a landlord would still have the right to refuse to rent to tenants based on bad credit, felony convictions, prior evictions, references, and other screening criteria as long as they screen all applicants consistently and do not advertise “no vouchers” or refuse a showing or application because of the tenant’s source of income.
Because of the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, Rhode Island is experiencing a shortage of landlords who will accept housing vouchers for people with disabilities, families, the homeless and others who need financial assistance. For information about how the Housing Choice voucher program works for landlords and how they can receive special incentives for participating, click here: Landlords | RIHousing. For more information, please contact the RIAR Legal Department at 401-432-6945 or email email@example.com.