Leases & Your Rights

Once you find that perfect apartment, your landlord will probably want you to sign a lease. Before you sign anything, familiarize yourself with your rights as a tenant, as well as how to protect yourself from liability.

Understand Your Rights Before You Sign
A lease is a contract, and the terms of the lease are agreed upon before move-in. The RI Landlord-Tenant Handbook (145K PDF) outlines the various types of lease agreements (written vs. month-to-month), as well as the rights and responsibilities of the landlord and tenant as defined by law.

Both parties should realize that a failure to fulfill any or all responsibilities may lead to a liability to the other party. If you are one of a group of tenants occupying the same unit, check the wording of your lease carefully to determine whether or not you alone can be held responsible for the actions of one or more of your roommates.

Apartment Condition and Repairs
Prior to signing a lease, make a careful inspection of the apartment, ideally with the landlord or his agent present.

The City of Providence has a Building Inspectors Department and a Division of Code Enforcement, which orders corrections of defects and sets a time limit in which defects must be rectified. In general, however, an apartment is being rented “as is” with all existing faults, and the rule of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) holds true.

Generally, unless there is a written agreement or promise (covenant) obligating the landlord to repair the premises, he or she is not bound to do so. If the landlord does not agree, in writing, to make repairs by a certain date, you might want to reconsider renting the apartment.