Coalition of R.I. landlords forms to oppose rental housing and eviction legislation

A NEW COALITION of landlords in Rhode Island has organized to oppose proposed eviction and tenant right legislation. / COURTESY RHODE ISLAND COALITION OF HOUSING PROVIDERS.

PROVIDENCE A newly formed coalition of landlords in Rhode Island has organized to oppose a series of bills that include prohibitions on evictions, the sealing of eviction records and requirements for property owners to have inspections before each rental.

More than 700 people who own and rent property in the state have joined the Rhode Island Coalition of Housing Providers, according to one of its leaders, Keith Fernandes, president of the Providence Apartment Association.

About 125 people met in a Zoom call on Wednesday, and discussed their plan to speak against various bills being heard Thursday afternoon by a R.I. Senate Judiciary committee, including one that would extend the state of emergency-related eviction moratorium in Rhode Island.

Other bills that have drawn member opposition include a measure that would require leases to be renewed on expiration, except for limited reasons, and require landlords to wait 30 days to send a late rent notice. Another bill, which would prevent landlords from inquiring about immigration status of tenants, has also raised concerns.

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Although many of these measures were introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic, by sponsors who said they are meant to stabilize housing for tenants, several property owners on the Zoom call Wednesday said the totality of the new bills would only strip them of property rights, and make it more difficult to collect rent and find good tenants.

Several said they are not the stereotypical landlord, and instead occupy multiunit buildings, and rent the remainder to families.

“Landlords are people who property owners, housing providers,” Fernandes said. “They are not the rich, fat cat from New York, private equity group, that is nameless and faceless. It is the small mom and pop landlords. Seventy percent of workforce housing gets provided by us. We need to change that narrative, that landlords are just in it for a quick buck.”

Etienne Kotey, a property owner who rents half of his two-family to a tenant, as well as a three-family, said becoming a landlord was the only practical way he could afford to buy his own home. His buildings are in South Providence, off Broad Street, and he said he has worked hard to make it an appealing location. He tends to rent the unit at below-market-rate, he said, to good tenants. If they do not pay rent, it becomes hard to cover maintenance on the buildings, he said.

“The community is very important to me,” said Kotey, who also runs a laundry and delivery business. “The narrative of wealthy landlord from the majority population is not the truth. It may be the best way for someone who may not be in a position to own a single-family … to own. A lot of immigrant folks and first-generation folks own.”

Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at

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