The duties in the premises to maintain the safety and health of the tenants and premises can feel innumerable to either party, so both the landlord and the tenant should completely understand what is expected of them in maintaining the premises.

Duties of the landlord include the following:

  • Comply with the requirements of applicable building and housing codes affecting health and safety;
  • Make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition;
  • Keep all common areas of the premises in a clean and safe condition;
  • Maintain in good and safe working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and other facilities and appliances, including elevators, supplied or required to be supplied by the landlord;
  • Provide and maintain appropriate receptacles and conveniences for the removal of ashes, garbage, rubbish, and other waste incidental to the occupancy of the premises as required by R.I. Gen. Laws § 45-24.3-6, or applicable local codes if more restrictive, and arrange for their removal; and
  • Supply running water and reasonable amounts of hot water at all times as required by R.I. Gen. Laws § 45-24.3-7, or applicable local codes if more restrictive, and reasonable heat as required by R.I. Gen. Laws § 45-24.3-9, or applicable local codes if more restrictive, between October 1 and May 1, except where the building that includes the Premises is not required by law to be equipped for that purpose, or the premises is so constructed that heat or hot water is generated by an installation within the exclusive control of the tenant and supplied by a direct public utility connection.

The regulations also include additional language which states that if the responsibilities required by the first bullet point is greater than any other, then the landlord’s duty to the premises maintenance shall be determined by compliance with the requirements of applicable building and housing codes affecting health and safety.

Duties of the tenant include the following:

  • Comply with all obligations primarily imposed upon tenants by applicable provisions of building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety;
  • Keep that part of the premises that the tenant occupies and uses as clean and safe as the condition of the premises permit;
  • Dispose from the premises all ashes, garbage, rubbish, and other waste in a clean and safe manner;
  • Keep all plumbing fixtures in the premises or used by the tenant as clean as their condition permits;
  • Use in a reasonable manner all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and other facilities and appliances, including elevators, in the premises;
  • Not deliberately or negligently destroy, deface, damage, impair, or remove any part of the premises or knowingly permit any person to do so;
  • Conduct himself or herself, and require other persons on the premises with his or her consent to conduct themselves, in a manner that will not disturb his or her neighbors’ peaceful enjoyment;
  • Refrain from using any part of the premises in a manner such as would constitute the maintaining of a narcotics nuisance under the provisions of R.I. Gen. Laws § 21-28-4.06;
  • Refrain from using any part of the premises or any public property adjacent thereto for the manufacture, sale, or delivery of a controlled substance or from possessing on the premises or any public property adjacent thereto with the intent to manufacture, sell, or deliver a controlled substance classified in schedule I or schedule II of chapter 28 of title 21; and
  • Refrain from any crime of violence on the premises or on any public property adjacent to said premises. A “crime of violence” means and includes any of the following crimes or an attempt to commit any of the following crimes; murder, manslaughter, arson, rape, sexual assault, mayhem, kidnapping, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault or battery involving grave bodily injury, and a felony assault with intent to commit any offense.

Maintenance by written agreement

The landlord and tenant may enter into an agreement that the tenant may perform specified repairs, maintenance tasks, alterations, and remodeling if the agreement is entered into in good faith and in writing, if the work is not done to cure a habitability noncompliance by the landlord, and if the agreement does not diminish or affect the landlord’s obligation to the other tenants.

Repairs and alterations

In general, no repairs or alterations, including changing locks and security systems, may be done without the prior consent of the landlord and, if applicable, the homeowner’s association. If a lock or security system is repaired or replaced, the tenant must provide the landlord with a key or instructions to safely disable the system.

Both parties have ways to cure the other’s noncompliance and be remedied for the costs: the landlord’s right to maintain and the tenant’s repair and deduct remedy. The right to maintain allows the landlord to remedy the noncompliance and charge the tenant for the actual and reasonable cost of the work done if the noncompliance materially affects health and safety; if the noncompliance could be fixed with a repair, replacement, or cleaning; and if the tenant failed to comply 20 days after a notice identifying the noncompliance from the landlord was sent. The repair and deduct remedy for the tenant works in the same way with a noncompliance by the landlord that costs less than $125 to remedy. If after 20 days’ notice the landlord has not yet fixed the noncompliance, the tenant may repair the issue in compliance with applicable state and local codes, submit an itemized statement of the cost to the landlord, and deduct the actual and reasonable cost of the work done from his or her rent. The first protection may be found in R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-39 and the second, R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-30.