(a) In the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, hereinafter referred to as the state, many people are denied equal opportunity in obtaining housing accommodations and are forced to live in circumscribed areas because of discriminatory housing practices based upon race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, military status as a veteran with an honorable discharge or an honorable or general administrative discharge, servicemember in the armed forces, country of ancestral origin, disability, age, familial status, or on the basis that a tenant or applicant or a member of the household is, or has been, or is threatened with being the victim of domestic abuse, or that the tenant or applicant has obtained, or sought, or is seeking, relief from any court in the form of a restraining order for protection from domestic abuse. These practices tend unjustly to condemn large groups of inhabitants to dwell in segregated districts or under depressed living conditions in crowded, unsanitary, substandard, and unhealthful accommodations. These conditions breed intergroup tension as well as vice, disease, juvenile delinquency, and crime; increase the fire hazard; endanger the public health; jeopardize the public safety, general welfare, and good order of the entire state; and impose substantial burdens on the public revenues for the abatement and relief of conditions so created. These discriminatory and segregative housing practices are inimical to and subvert the basic principles upon which the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was founded and upon which the state and the United States were later established. Discrimination and segregation in housing tend to result in segregation in our public schools and other public facilities, which is contrary to the policy of the state and the constitution of the United States. Further, discrimination and segregation in housing adversely affect urban renewal programs and the growth, progress, and prosperity of the state. In order to aid in the correction of these evils, it is necessary to safeguard the right of all individuals to equal opportunity in obtaining housing accommodations free of discrimination.

Terms Used In Rhode Island General Laws 34-37-1

  • Age: means anyone over the age of eighteen (18). See Rhode Island General Laws 34-37-3
  • Armed forces: means the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines, or Air Force of the United States and the Rhode Island National Guard. See Rhode Island General Laws 34-37-3
  • Disability: means a disability as defined in § 42-87-1. See Rhode Island General Laws 34-37-3
  • Familial status: means one or more individuals who have not attained the age of eighteen (18) years being domiciled with:

    (A) A parent or another person having legal custody of the individual or individuals; or

    (B) The designee of the parent or other person having the custody, with the written permission of the parent or other person, provided that, if the individual is not a relative or legal dependent of the designee, that the individual shall have been domiciled with the designee for at least six (6) months. See Rhode Island General Laws 34-37-3

  • gender identity or expression: includes a person's actual or perceived gender, as well as a person's gender identity, gender-related self image, gender-related appearance, or gender-related expression; whether or not that gender identity, gender-related self image, gender-related appearance, or gender-related expression is different from that traditionally associated with the person's sex at birth. See Rhode Island General Laws 34-37-3
  • housing status: means the status of having or not having a fixed or regular residence, including the status of living on the streets or in a homeless shelter or similar temporary residence. See Rhode Island General Laws 34-37-3
  • Person: includes one or more individuals, partnerships, associations, organizations, corporations, labor organizations, mutual companies, joint stock companies, trusts, receivers, legal representatives, trustees, other fiduciaries, or real estate brokers or real estate salespersons as defined in chapter 20. See Rhode Island General Laws 34-37-3
  • sexual orientation: means having, or being perceived as having, an orientation for heterosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality. See Rhode Island General Laws 34-37-3
  • United States: include the several states and the territories of the United States. See Rhode Island General Laws 43-3-8
  • victim: means a family or household member and all other persons contained within the definition of those terms as defined in § 12-29-2. See Rhode Island General Laws 34-37-3

(b) It is hereby declared to be the policy of the state to assure to all individuals regardless of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, military status as a veteran with an honorable discharge or an honorable or general administrative discharge, servicemember in the armed forces, country of ancestral origin, or disability, age, familial status, housing status, or those tenants or applicants or members of a household who are, or have been, or are threatened with being the victims of domestic abuse, or those tenants or applicants who have obtained, or sought, or are seeking relief from any court in the form of a restraining order for protection from domestic abuse, equal opportunity to live in decent, safe, sanitary, and healthful accommodations anywhere within the state in order that the peace, health, safety, and general welfare of all the inhabitants of the state may be protected and ensured.

(c) The practice of discrimination in rental housing based on the potential or actual tenancy of a person with a minor child, or on the basis that a tenant or applicant or a member of the household is, or has been, or is threatened with being the victim of domestic abuse, or that the tenant or applicant has obtained, or sought, or is seeking relief from any court in the form of a restraining order for protection from domestic abuse is declared to be against public policy.

(d) This chapter shall be deemed an exercise of the police power of the state for the protection of the public welfare, prosperity, health, and peace of the people of the state.

(e) Nothing in this section shall prevent a landlord from proceeding with eviction action against a tenant who fails to comply with § 34-18-24(7).

History of Section.
(P.L. 1965, ch. 27, § 1; P.L. 1977, ch. 214, § 1; P.L. 1979, ch. 144, § 3; P.L. 1985, ch. 415, § 1; P.L. 1988, ch. 455, § 1; P.L. 1990, ch. 398, § 1; P.L. 1995, ch. 32, § 2; P.L. 1997, ch. 150, § 8; P.L. 2001, ch. 340, § 2; P.L. 2002, ch. 118, § 2; P.L. 2002, ch. 224, § 2; P.L. 2012, ch. 316, § 2; P.L. 2012, ch. 356, § 2; P.L. 2015, ch. 161, § 1; P.L. 2015, ch. 180, § 1.)