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2/7/2018 Metts bill bans housing discrimination based on lawful source of income
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.

The bill is meant, in large part, to stop landlords from discriminating against those who receive Section 8 housing funds or other types of assistance.

“No one should be discriminating against people because of 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. 5, Providence).

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923