Rhode Island Renter’s Rights for Repairs

Rhode Island Renter’s Rights for Repairs

Last Updated: June 29, 2023

Tenants in Rhode Island have the legal right to repairs for issues that place the property in violation of state health and safety standards. To exercise this right, they must properly notify the landlord in writing and allow 20 days for the repairs to be made.

Rhode Island Landlord Responsibilities for Repairs

Rhode Island landlords are responsible for keeping all of the following in good working condition:

  • Electricity (if provided).
  • Heating (from May 1 to October 1).
  • Provided appliances.
  • Plumbing (kitchen sink, bathroom sink, toilet, and shower / bathtub).
  • Hot / Cold water.
  • Laundry, kitchen, and bathroom lights.
  • Smoke alarms.
  • Common areas.
  • Features that impact health, safety, or habitability.

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What Repairs Are Tenants Responsible For in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island tenants are responsible for repairing issues with health and safety that they caused themselves. If it’s not an emergency, tenants can usually wait until the landlord asks in writing for repairs.

On a case by case basis, the landlord and tenant can agree beforehand, in writing, for the tenant to take on responsibility for specific maintenance. This is only an option if the property is already up to code.

Requesting Repairs in Rhode Island

Rhode Island tenants must request repairs by giving notice of the issue in writing. To reserve relevant legal options, the tenant must also state actions they might take if the landlord does not make timely repairs, such as to repair (themselves) and deduct from rent, or cancel the lease altogether.

An example of language a tenant might use to state these intentions is: “If the issue isn’t fixed, the tenant may exercise his right to repair and deduct, or to cancel the rental agreement thirty or more days from today.

How Long Does a Landlord Have To Make Repairs in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island landlords have 20 days to make repairs after getting written notice from a tenant about an issue.

For emergencies involving repairs under $125 value (for example, if the lock on the front door breaks by accident), the landlord has to make repairs immediately upon receiving notice, or else the renter can repair and then deduct from rent.

Can the Landlord Refuse To Make Repairs in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island landlords cannot refuse to make repairs that are their responsibility. It doesn’t matter if the tenant is behind on rent or otherwise breaking the terms of the rental agreement.

Do Landlords Have To Pay for Alternative Accommodation During Repairs in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island landlords generally needn’t pay for alternative accommodation during repairs. However, if the landlord’s deliberate or careless action creates issues with heat, utilities, or other essential services, the renter can stop paying rent, move to alternative accommodation, and sue the landlord for the cost.

Tenant’s Rights if Repairs Aren’t Made in Rhode Island

Rhode Island tenants can do one of the following if a landlord does not make timely repairs:

  • Repair the issue themselves and deduct from rent.
  • Cancel the rental agreement.
  • Reduce rental payments (in special cases).
  • Get substitute housing and withhold rent (in special cases) .

Can the Tenant Withhold Rent in Rhode Island?

A tenant in Rhode Island can only withhold rent if the landlord deliberately or carelessly creates issues with heat, utilities, or other essential services. If this happens, the tenant can notify the landlord of the issues, stop rent payments, and move temporarily into substitute housing.

Can the Tenant Repair and Deduct in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island tenants can repair and deduct in one of two situations, depending on the cost of repairs:

  • For repairs under $125 total, tenants can repair and deduct if this intention was included in the repair request and the landlord hasn’t fixed the issue within 20 days (or immediately in emergencies).
  • For repairs over $125 total, tenants can repair and deduct only when the landlord deliberately or carelessly withholds heat, utilities, or other essential services and doesn’t fix the situation after getting proper notice.

Can the Tenant Break Their Lease in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island tenants can break their leases for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Repairs aren’t made 20 days after written notice.
  • Violations of the rental agreement.
  • Issues that threaten health and safety on the property.
  • The landlord deliberately causes issues with heat, utilities, or other essential services.

Can the Tenant Sue in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island tenants can sue to force repairs and recover costs, when the landlord doesn’t make timely repairs.

Even if the lease has an arbitration provision, the tenant may be able to challenge this in court and sue anyway. Rhode Island gives a specific right to sue on various grounds, so lease terms that require binding arbitration for an issue protected by statute are arguably illegal and unenforceable.

Can the Tenant Report the Landlord in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island tenants can report landlords for code violations that affect the health or safety of a property. Tenants should usually report potential violations to the inspections or code enforcement department of their local town or city.

If an inspecting officer finds a code violation, the tenant could cancel the rental agreement, or sue to force repairs. If the violation affects essential services like heat or utilities, the tenant could even move into substitute housing until the issue is fixed.

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Landlord Retaliation in Rhode Island

It’s illegal for Rhode Island landlords to retaliate with raised rent, reduced services, or threatened eviction against tenants who have taken one of the following protected actions in the past six months:

  • Complaining to the landlord or government about failure to maintain the property.
  • Participating in a tenant organization.
  • Pursuing rights or remedies given by the law or rental agreement.

The law allows an exception when the landlord can prove a non-retaliatory, good-faith reason for the alleged retaliatory action. For example, a landlord who raises rent proportionately in response to a large increase in property tax is not retaliating, even if a tenant has recently complained about maintenance.

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