Are Tenants Responsible for Mold Damage in Rhode Island Rentals?

This is another post dedicated to questions that have lead people to my blog and not finding anything that connected to their exact question about their home, construction, or basement project. In hopes that this information can be helpful to a person in Rhode Island dealing with a mold issue in their basement, I've posted this blog.

According to a renter’s hand book distributed by the University of Rhode Island:

Page 11:
“A tenant must comply with required State and local health and safety code standards. The rental unit and shared interior/exterior areas must be kept clean and safe from hazards. The garbage, rubbish, and other wastes must removed from the unit (as necessary) and disposed of in a proper manner. The plumbing fixtures and facilities must be kept in a clean and satisfactory condition. All electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, and other facilities and appliances on the premises must be used in a reasonable manner. There must be no deliberate or negligent destruction, defacing, impairment or removal of anything that is attached to or otherwise part of the premises. Also, the tenant is responsible for the conduct of family members and visitors in regard to the afore- mentioned situations.

The tenant should: avoid causing noisy or unruly disturbances which may bother other people; bring regular maintenance and major repair situations to the landlord's attention on a "as needed" basis; and notify the landlord promptly of any conditions that may cause deterioration of the premises.”

This can be translated as: If the tenant caused the mold growth via a spill or neglect to bring it to the attention of the landlord, then they can be held accountable.

If it is something that is caused by the neglect of the landlord then it is the landlord’s responsibility.

“Landlords must comply with state building code (RIGL 23-27.3) requirements concerning all new construction, additions, or repairs that are done or are needed. It is also extremely important that rental units be kept in a continually fit and habitable condition. When a unit is initially rented and during any period of occupancy, state law requires that a unit meet the housing standards of the Rhode Island Housing Maintenance and Occupancy Code (RIGL 45-24.3) (or http://www.library.state.ri.us/publications/hrc/2007Revision%20of%20L_T_Handbook2.pdf ), as well as local related ordinances. If a unit is sub-standard and repairs are not made in a prompt and satisfactory manner, there are certain options available to the tenant under the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act as well as under the aforementioned housing code laws…

Generally, minor repairs of a structural nature are the responsibility of the landlord (if needed as a result of normal wear and tear) as well as all major repairs. As will be mentioned elsewhere, certain minor repairs, as well as cleanliness, and repairs needed as a result of the tenant's (or guest's) negligence or purposeful destruction are usually the tenant's responsibility. There can be a written agreement made between a landlord and a tenant, which allows the tenant to do specified repairs, maintenance, alterations, and remodeling. But such an agreement must be made in good faith, in writing, signed by both parties, and supported by adequate compensation. The agreement cannot be made so the landlord can avoid his or her responsibility under applicable building and housing codes, nor does it in any way diminish or affect the landlord's obligation to other tenants on the premises.”

Not having a law background I can’t weigh in on a “verdict” for whose responsibility it is. However, the one thing that should be weighed in on is a landlord not acting. If there is a foundation issue, a moldy basement, or a basement leak that isn’t fixed or addressed then yes, I agree that the landlord should be held responsible.

So it’s in your best interest as a tenant to educate yourself on the types of mold that are found in basements, effects, causes and if you suspect you have a moisture problem, then to contact a professional basement waterproofing company to help you iron out suggestions for proper mitigation with your landlord.

Further reading:

Indoor Mold Legislation Proceeds Cautiously at the State, Federal Level – Latham & Watkins, LLP



(this is a particularly partial listing and explanation of mold types and other resources)

Basement Waterproofing, Moisture Control, Dehumidifers and Basement Finishing