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Who is Responsible for Personal Property Damage in a Rhode Island Rental Property?

Rhode Island law dictates what responsibilities landlords and tenants each have to maintain the property in a livable condition. The state of Rhode Island has published a landlord-tenant handbook that notes the relevant laws pertaining to these responsibilities. Damage caused to a rental home and the contents thereof may be the responsibility of the landlord or the tenant, depending on the circumstances surrounding the damage. Rhode Island landlords are legally required to maintain all common areas of a rental property inside and outside the dwelling. These areas must be maintained in a continuous fit and habitable condition. Any damage to a home’s electrical, plumbing, heating, and sanitary systems is the responsibility of the landlord.

Minor structural repairs and any major repairs are also the responsibility of the landlord. Cleaning, as well as minor repairs of problems caused by a tenant’s own negligence, are the responsibility of the tenant. If a landlord and tenant so choose, they can enter into additional written agreements to divide maintenance and repair responsibilities further; however, state law sets a minimum responsibility level for landlords that cannot be contractually eliminated.

The home itself, the fixtures, certain appliances and other property belonging to the landlord may be covered under a property insurance policy in the event of a covered loss. Tenants’ personal property, including electronics, clothing, automobiles, recreational equipment, etc, is not covered by the homeowner’s insurance policy. Tenants seeking insurance coverage for their property located in the home should purchase a rental insurance policy to protect their property and assets.

Tenants who notice a problem that requires repair should give written notice to their landlord requesting the repair. Smaller repairs costing up to $125 can be completed by the tenant, with the cost being deducted from the next rental payment, so long as the tenant gives the landlord 20 days’ notice before completing the repair on their own. Larger repairs that are the responsibility of the landlord should be completed promptly and reasonably after the tenant gives notice of the maintenance issue. If a residential unit is damaged beyond the point of habitability, the tenant can give written notice of such, voiding the lease from the date of the notice and protecting the tenant from the obligation to pay further rent.

If you or someone close to you is on either side of a landlord/tenant dispute, you may be subject to obligations that you aren’t even aware of. Having a qualified Rhode Island landlord/tenant attorney by your side can ensure that all parties understand and follow their obligations with regard to the maintenance and repair of the property. The experienced Rhode Island investment property attorneys with Bilodeau Capalbo, LLP understand the relationship between landlords and tenants in this state, and we know how to apply the laws to meet our clients’ interests and needs. If you have questions about a Rhode Island landlord/tenant issue, we’re here to help. Call us at 401-300-4055 for a free consultation.


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