Senate Judiciary Committee hears testimony on housing, landlord bills

R.I. SEN. ANA QUEZADA, D-Providence, is shown providing an outline of one of her bills, which would prohibit landlords from inquiring about the immigration status of tenants. / COURTESY CAPITOL TV

PROVIDENCE – The Senate Judiciary Committee last week held almost four hours of testimony on a series of bills relating to housing and landlord obligations.

Several of the key bills being tracked by landlord and fair housing groups were held for further study.

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Much of the testimony focused on Senate bill 0183, which would prevent residential evictions during a state of emergency, and Senate bill 528, which would require the sealing of eviction records.

Other measures held for additional review would prevent landlords from inquiring about immigration status, or require them to wait 30 days before filing a late notice. Another bill, introduced at the request of the Rhode Island Association of Realtors, would require new Realtors and professionals seeking license renewals to take formal training in the Fair Housing Act before obtaining their license or renewal.

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Sen. Ana Quezada, D-Providence, the sponsor of Senate bill 421, the measure preventing landlords from inquiring about immigration status, said it has simple intentions. “It’s to try to prevent discrimination,” she said.

The bill has the support of the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island Inc. Landlords will often inquire about a last name, or someone’s ethnicity, said Steven Brown, the organization’s executive director. “Those inquiries, it’s clear to us, are really a proxy for discriminating against people,” he said. “This is a real problem that families encounter.”

Many of the bills introduced this session have been opposed by members of a new organization of landlords, the Rhode Island Coalition of Housing Providers.

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

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