STATE HOUSE – Sen. Harold M. Metts has introduced
legislation prohibiting landlords from discriminating against tenants or
potential tenants on the basis of their lawful source of income.
discriminating against those who receive Section 8 housing funds or other types
their income or the assistance they need. Making broad generalizations about
those who receive, for example, Section 8 funds, is wrong in the same way that
making broad generalizations about any other group of people is. It’s hard
enough for families to find decent housing that they can afford. They shouldn’t
have to face housing discrimination and rejection based on the source of their
income, too,” said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence).
The legislation (2018-S 2301)
adds “lawful source of income” to the list of statuses — such as race, color,
religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital
status — that landlords may not use as a basis for their decisions about
to whom they will rent, or which units they will rent to them. The bill would
not apply to owner-occupied dwellings of three units or less.
The bill includes language that would still allow landlords
to ask whether a prospective tenants is at least 18 years old, and allow them
to check a prospective tenant’s income, its source and its expected duration
only for the purpose of confirming the renter’s ability to pay rent.
The bill defines “lawful sources of income” as “income or
other assistance derived from Social Security; Supplemental Security Income;
any other federal, state or local general public assistance, including medical
assistance; any federal, state or local housing assistance, including Section 8
Housing …, and any other rental assistance; child support; or alimony.”
In addition to protecting tenants from being refused housing
based on their income, the bill also protects them from other unlawful housing
practices, including segregation.
“The state of Rhode Island long ago declared that discrimination-free
housing is a civil right. It is discrimination to refuse to rent to someone
because they may receive some form of assistance, or to rent only certain units
or areas to them based on where they get their income. Our law needs to address
this insidious type of discrimination because it’s hurtful to individuals and
families, and it’s contributing to segregation in our state and to the divide
between the haves and the have-nots,” said Senator Metts.
The bill, which Senator Metts introduced Feb. 1, is
cosponsored by Sen. Elizabeth A. Crowley (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls,
Pawtucket), Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Sen. Frank A. Ciccone
III (D-Dist. 7, Providence, North Providence) and Sen. Paul V. Jabour (D-Dist.