Rhode Island Habitability Laws

QUICK FACTS
  • Landlord Responsibilities. Maintain all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and other facilities and appliances, including elevators in good condition (read more).
  • Making Repairs. Landlords are required to make and pay for repairs for items under their responsibility. They must do so within 20 days after receiving a written request from tenants (read more).
  • Tenant Options. If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, tenant can’t withhold rent, but does have right to repair and deduct, report the issue to a public official or file a lawsuit (read more).
  • Retaliation. If a landlord is reported to a local city or county inspector for housing code violations, it is illegal for a landlord to retaliate, such as by threatening eviction (read more).

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

Dwelling TypeLandlord/Tenant Laws Apply?
Single familyYes
Multi-familyYes
Fraternities/Sororities/ClubsNo
RV parksNot addressed
Mobile home parksNot addressed
CondosNot addressed
Hotels/MotelsNo

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

Landlord Responsibilities

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 IssueLandlord Responsibility?
Provide windows and doors that are in good repair.Yes
Ensure the roof, walls, etc., are completely waterproofed and there are no leaks.Yes
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/cookingYes
Provide working sanitation facilities (bathtub/shower, toilet).Yes
Provide a trash can (for trash pickup services).Yes
Ensure that any stairs and railings are safe.Not addressed
Ensure that all floors are in good condition and safe.Yes
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 detectorsNot addressed
Provide a mailbox.Not addressed
Provide working wiring for one telephone jack.Not addressed
Provide working kitchen appliances.No
Provide working carbon monoxide detector.Not addressed
Provide a working washer/dryer.No

Rodent-proofing

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.”

Making Repairs

Landlords are required to make and pay for any repairs to make the unit livable that are not caused by the tenant.

  • Sending notice. If a tenant request repairs, they must put their request in writing to the landlord. The landlord will then have 20 days to make any necessary repairs after receiving written notice.
  • Landlord access. Tenants are required to give the landlord access to the property to make necessary repairs. However, a landlord must give tenants two days’ notice unless:
    • The tenant no longer occupies the property.
    • It’s an emergency.

Tenant’s Options if Repairs Aren’t Made

If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, the tenant has a few possible options for resolving the issue.

  1. Withhold rent – Rhode Island landlord tenant law do not permit tenants to withhold rent when a landlord fails to make repairs or violates any other provision of the Landlord Tenant Act.
  2. Repair and deduct – Tenants do have the right to repair the issue themselves and deduct a reasonable amount for the repair from the following month’s rent if the reasonable cost of repairs is less than $125.
  3. Lawsuit – tenants can pursue legal action for damages resulting from habitability issues.
  4. Reporting to Public Officials – landlords can be reported on a city or county level to housing inspectors if they are found to be in violation of any local housing codes.

Landlord Retaliation

It is illegal for a landlord to retaliate by increasing rent or decreasing services or by bringing or threatening to bring an action for possession because the tenant:

(1) complained to a governmental agency such as a building or housing inspector of a housing violation affecting health and safety; or

(2) complained to the landlord about habitability issues; or

(3) joined or organized a tenants’ union or similar organization; or

(4) exercised their lawful rights.

Sources