One of the most important first steps in beginning a tenancy is collecting the security deposit because it can save the landlord from any potentially harmful tenants and their damaging choices. Rhode Island is pretty general with the laws that lay out how to deal with the security deposit, the first of which being that the security deposit may not exceed one month’s rent. The landlord may use the security deposit towards unpaid and accrued rent, reasonable cleaning expenses, reasonable trash disposal expenses, and the cost of remedying physical damages to the premises, not including reasonable wear and tear.

At the end of the tenancy, the tenant should provide a forwarding address to which the landlord must return the security deposit. The landlord must return either the full amount or a portion of it with an itemized list describing any deductions from the full amount within 20 days after the tenancy has ended. If the landlord fails to return the security deposit and/or the itemized list, the tenant may recover the amount wrongly withheld as well as damages in an amount equal to twice the amount wrongfully withheld, and reasonable attorney’s fees.