Warranty of Habitability in Rhode Island

Last Updated: July 8, 2024 by Roberto Valenzuela

In Rhode Island, a landlord’s obligation for providing a habitable living space is primarily governed by R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-22. This legal requirement, commonly known as the “implied warranty of habitability,” also outlines the rights of tenants when repairs are not made in a timely manner.

Quick Facts Answer
Landlord Responsibilities Windows/Doors, Hot/Cold Water, HVAC, Plumbing/Electrical, Sanitation Facilities, Kitchen Appliances
Time Limit for Repairs 20 Days
Tenant Recourse Options
  • Withhold Rent: Usually Not
  • Repair and Deduct: Yes, less than $500 or the cost of essential services.
  • Substitute Housing: Usually Not

Applicable Dwelling Types in Rhode Island

The implied warranty of habitability in Rhode Island does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are and aren’t included.

Dwelling Type Landlord/Tenant Laws Apply?
Single family Yes
Multi-family Yes
Fraternities/Sororities/Clubs No
RV parks Not addressed
Mobile home parks Not addressed
Condos Not addressed
Hotels/Motels No

Additionally, rental agreements are not allowed to include any provisions that waive the tenant’s right to live in a habitable residence.

Landlord Responsibilities in Rhode Island

The following chart lists possible landlord responsibilities when it comes to habitability.  Not all of them are requirements in Rhode Island, as indicated below.

Note: Some of the below items may not be addressed at the state level but may be addressed on a county or city level. Check your local housing codes to see which additional requirements may apply.

Habitability Issue Landlord Responsibility?
Provide windows and doors that are in good repair. Yes
Ensure the roof, walls, etc., are completely waterproofed and there are no leaks. Not addressed
Provide hot and cold running water. Yes
Provide working HVAC equipment. Yes
Provide working plumbing and electrical wiring/outlets/ lighting. Yes
Provide working gas lines if used for utilities/cooking Not addressed
Provide working sanitation facilities (bathtub/shower, toilet). Yes
Provide a trash can (for trash pickup services). Four or more dwelling units
Ensure that any stairs and railings are safe. Not addressed
Ensure that all floors are in good condition and safe. Not addressed
Provide fire exits that are usable, safe, and clean. Not addressed
Ensure storage areas, including garages and basements, do not house combustible materials. Not addressed
Provide working smoke detectors Yes
Provide a mailbox. Not addressed
Provide working wiring for one telephone jack. Not addressed
Provide working kitchen appliances. Yes
Provide working carbon monoxide detector. Not addressed
Provide a working washer/dryer. Not addressed

Landlords must comply with all housing and building codes that affect the health and safety of tenants.  All necessary repairs should be made to keep the dwelling unit and all common areas in a fit and habitable condition.

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Minimum Standards for Basic Facilities and Equipment

Every dwelling unit in Rhode Island must have a room (or portion of a room) where food may be prepared or cooked and shall have adequate circulation.  Dwelling units must contain the following:

  • A kitchen sink that supplies heated and unheated water and connected to a septic tank or sewer system
  • A stove or a similar appliance for cooking food
  • A refrigerator or a similar device to safely store food at less than 50 degrees Fahrenheit (but more than 32 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Shelves and/or cabinets that can store utensils and eating and drinking equipment
  • A bathtub or shower that is connected to a water supply system which supplies unheated and heated water that is connected to a sewer system or septic tank
  • An uninhabitable room that contains a flush water closet that is connected to a sewer system or septic tank and the room must contain a bathroom sink
  • Any unit that is above the first floor must have an exit with a minimum head room of six feet, six inches that leads to an open, safe space at ground level

Minimum Standards for Ventilation and Light

Every habitable room must have at least one window or skylight that can be easily opened so there is enough ventilation for the room. Each bathroom or nonhabitable room that is used for food preparation must follow the above requirements, unless it is adequately ventilated.

If electricity used from power lines is less than 300 feet from the dwelling unit (including common areas), it must have electrical outlets and fixtures that are maintained in good condition. Every habitable room must have outlets or fixtures that provide the tenant with three watts per square foot of floor area.

Every room (including nonhabitable rooms) that are used for food preparation must have at least two outlets either on the wall or floor and must provide electricity for every 60 square feet of floor area. Public halls, water closet rooms, furnace rooms, kitchens, kitchenettes, bathrooms, laundry rooms must have at least one wall or ceiling light fixture. In multiple dwelling units, all public hallways and stairways must have six footcandles of light at floor level.  Finally, any hallway or stairway that has three or less dwelling units must have easily accessible light switches.


A landlord must supply adequate heat (at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit) between October 1st and May 1st, unless the tenant supplies heat themselves.

General Liability Insurance

Landlords must obtain $100,000 of general liability insurance for people who may be injured on the premises due to the landlord’s negligence.


Landlords are required to provide rental units that are “rodent-proofed.”

Lead-Based Paint

Rhode Island landlords are required to mitigate lead-based paint for rental properties built prior to 1978, if the presence of the lead-based paint presents a “clear and significant health risk.”

Repairs, Recourse and Retaliation in Rhode Island

If a rental property is in violation of the implied warranty of habitability in Rhode Island, state laws outline how the repair process works, what tenants can do if repairs aren’t made, and how tenants are protected against retaliating landlords.

Requesting Repairs in Rhode Island

Rhode Island tenants must request repairs through written notice to the landlord regarding the issue that needs fixing. To reserve relevant legal options, the tenant must also state actions they might take if timely repairs aren’t made, such as to repair 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.

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

Rhode Island renters have the right to repairs for issues affecting health and safety, unless they caused the issue themselves. Outside of emergencies, the landlord gets 20 days after proper written notice to perform repairs.

If the issue isn’t fixed in a timely way, the renter could end the rental agreement, get a court order to force repairs, or self-help for inexpensive repairs (under $500 ) and deduct from rent. Rent withholding isn’t allowed, however. Read More

Landlord Retaliation in Rhode Island

Rhode Island landlords can’t retaliate with raised rent, reduced services, or threatened eviction against tenants who have taken one of these actions within the past six months:

  • Maintenance complaints to the landlord or government
  • Participation in tenant organizations
  • Pursuing rights or remedies given by law or lease

There’s an exception for non-retaliatory, good-faith motivations. For example, proportionately increasing rent after an increase in property tax isn’t retaliatory.

Tenants can respond by canceling the rental agreement or retaking possession of the property, and recovering triple the monthly rent or triple the costs of retaliation (whichever amount is greater), plus attorney fees.