In Rhode Island, a landlord who fails to comply with the law concerning the return of a security deposit within twenty days can be be assessed a damage payment of twice the amount illegally withheld plus attorneys fees. R.I.G.L. 34-18-19.requires the security deposits be returned within twenty days "after" the tenant gives proper notice, moves out, returns the key and provides a forwarding address.
When returning the deposit, the landlord must send the tenant an itemized notice listing any legal deductions withheld. These deductions can be for unpaid - outstanding rent and physical damages other than ordinary wear and tear.
A tenant's failure to provide a forwarding address or providing notice that he or she is vacating will be argued by the landlord in defense of punitive damages. When does the twenty day notice period begin? When did the landlord become aware that the tenant vacated? Written notice is important!
Regardless, the security deposit after deducting for damage and back rent, has to be returned.
In short, if a tenant fails to provide notice or a forwarding address, he or she will forfeit any right to recover statutory damages and attorneys fees from their landlord.