Title 45
Towns and Cities

Chapter 24.3
Housing Maintenance and Occupancy Code

R.I. Gen. Laws 45-24.3-19



 45-24.3-19.  Repairs and other corrective action — Demolition — Revolving fund.


(a) Repairs and other corrective action. 

(1) Whenever an owner, operator, or agent of a dwelling, dwelling unit, rooming unit, or structure fails, neglects, or refuses to make repairs or other corrective action called for by a second order or notice of violation issued pursuant to 45-24.3-17, the enforcing officer may undertake the repairs or action, when in his or her judgment a failure to make them will endanger the public health, safety, or welfare, and the cost of the repairs and action will not exceed fifty percent (50%) of the fair market value of the structure to be repaired.

(2) Notice of the intention to make repairs or take other corrective action shall be served upon the owner, operator, or agent pursuant to 45-24.3-17.

(3) Every owner, operator, or agent of a dwelling, dwelling unit, rooming unit, or structure, who receives notice of the intention of the enforcing officer to make repairs or take other corrective action, shall give entry and free access to the agent of the enforcing officer for the purpose of making repairs.

(4) Any owner, operator, agent, or occupant of a dwelling, dwelling unit, rooming unit, or structure, who refuses, impedes, interferes with, hinders, or obstructs entry by the agent pursuant to a notice of intention to make repairs or take other corrective action, is subject to a civil penalty of twenty-five dollars ($25.00) for each failure to comply with this section.

(5) When repairs are made or other corrective action taken at the direction of the enforcing officer, cost of the repairs and corrective action constitutes a debt in favor of the corporate unit against the owner of the repaired structure. In the event the owner fails, neglects, or refuses to pay the corporate unit the amount of this debt, it is recoverable in a civil action against the owner or his or her successor, brought in a court of competent jurisdiction by the corporate unit which possesses all rights of a private creditor.

(b) Designation of unfit dwellings, dwelling units, rooming units, and structures. 

(1) Any dwelling, dwelling unit, rooming unit, or structure shall be designated as unfit for human habitation when any of the following defects or conditions are found, and when, in the opinion of the enforcing officer, these defects create a hazard to the health, safety, or welfare of the occupants or of the public:

(i) The structure is damaged, decayed, dilapidated, unsanitary, unsafe, or vermin-infested.

(ii) The structure lacks illumination, ventilation, or required thermal and sanitation facilities.

(iii) The general condition of location is unsanitary, unsafe, or unhealthful.

(2) Whenever any dwelling, dwelling unit, rooming unit, or structure has been designated as unfit for human habitation, the enforcing officer shall placard the dwelling, dwelling unit, or rooming unit, or structure, indicating that it is unfit for human habitation, and, if occupied, shall order the dwelling, dwelling unit, rooming unit, or structure vacated within a reasonable time, that time to be not more than thirty (30) days.

(3) No dwelling, dwelling unit, rooming unit, or structure, designated as unfit for human habitation, and which has been placarded and vacated, shall be used again for human habitation until written approval is secured from the enforcing officer and the placard removed by the enforcing officer.

(4) The enforcing officer shall rescind the designation and remove the placard when the defect or condition upon which the designation and the placarding was based has been removed or eliminated as to cause the dwelling, dwelling unit, rooming unit, or structure to be deemed by the enforcing officer as a safe, sanitary, and fit place or unit for human habitation.

(5) No person shall deface or remove the placard from any dwelling, dwelling unit, rooming unit, or structure which has been designated as unfit for human habitation and has been placarded, except as provided in this section.

(6) Any person affected by any decision of the enforcing officer or by any designation or placarding of a dwelling, dwelling unit, rooming unit, or structure as unfit for human habitation, shall be granted a hearing on the matter before the enforcing officer under the procedure established in 45-24.3-21.

(7) The enforcing officer may order the owner of any building, which has been in the past and/or is vacant and open, to comply with the following specifications: all openings (including doors and windows) from cellar to second floor and all windows above the second floor leading to fire escapes, porches, or structural appurtenances, on all floors, must be covered from the exterior with three-eighths inch (⅜") thick exterior plywood or one-half inch (") notched boards firmly secured and with protective coating. All other windows must be so secured by either one-quarter inch (") thick exterior plywood or one-half inch (") notched boards.

(c) Demolition of dwellings, dwelling units, or rooming units designated as unfit for human habitation. 

(1) The enforcing officer shall order a dwelling, dwelling unit, or rooming unit to be demolished if it has been designated as unfit for human habitation, has been placarded, has been vacated, and has not been put into proper repair as to rescind the designation as unfit for human habitation and to cause the placard to be removed, and is determined by the enforcing officer not to warrant repair under this section.

(2) The owner of any dwelling, dwelling unit, or rooming unit, ordered demolished, shall be given notice of this order in the manner provided for service of notice in 45-24.3-17, and given a reasonable time, not to exceed ninety (90) days, to demolish the structure.

(3) Any owner aggrieved by the notice to demolish may, within ten (10) days, seek a reconsideration of the matter in the manner provided, and may seek a formal hearing in the manner provided in 45-24.3-21.

(4) When the owner fails, neglects, or refuses to demolish an unfit, unsafe, or unsanitary dwelling, dwelling unit, or rooming unit within the requisite time, the enforcing officer may apply to a court of competent jurisdiction for a demolition order to undertake the demolition. The court may grant the order when no reconsideration or hearing on the matter is pending. The cost of the demolition shall create a debt in favor of this corporate unit against the owner, and is recoverable in a civil action brought by the corporate unit which possesses all the rights of a private creditor.

(5) Whenever a dwelling is demolished, whether carried out by the owner or by the enforcing officer, the demolition shall include the filling in of the excavation remaining on the property on which the demolished dwelling was located, in a manner that eliminates all potential danger to the public health, safety, or welfare arising from the excavation.

(6) All demolition shall be preceded by an inspection of the premises by the appropriate authority as provided for by the laws of this state.

(d) Relocation of occupants.  Notwithstanding the other provisions of this section, no dwelling shall be vacated or demolished by the enforcing officer, under the powers granted to him or her by the provisions of this chapter, until persons occupying the dwelling at the time the compliance order is issued have been offered housing accommodations in a decent, safe, and sanitary dwelling which meets the requirements of this chapter.

(e) Revolving fund.  There is created a revolving fund for the purpose of supporting the cost of repairs and other corrective action or demolition made by the enforcing officer pursuant to this section. Into this fund shall be paid:

(1) All civil penalties collected for violations of this chapter pursuant to 45-24.3-18.

(2) All license fees collected pursuant to this chapter.

(3) All judgments collected in actions to recover the costs of repair and other corrective action and demolition, pursuant to this section.

(4) Any other revenues that the corporate unit may from time to time authorize to be paid into this fund.

(5) All donations and grants designed to promote the purposes of this chapter from public or private sources. The enforcing officer is declared to be the authorized agency of the corporate unit to apply for and receive all grants, loans, and gifts of funds to promote the purposes of this chapter.

(f) Rent payments.  Notwithstanding any lease or other agreement, if the enforcing officer of any corporate unit has ordered the repair, alteration, or improvement of a dwelling in that the officer designates the dwelling to be an unfit dwelling, as provided for in this section, then the obligation of rent to the landlord is suspended and the rent paid into the revolving fund as established in subsection (e) by the enforcing officer, to be paid thereafter to the landlord or any other party authorized to make repairs (including the enforcing officer) to defray the cost of correcting the conditions, and no action shall be maintained by the landlord against the tenant for rent or for possession. Sums paid into the revolving fund in excess of those necessary to make repairs shall be paid to the landlord on completion. If the tenant fails to make payments to the enforcing officer then an action for rent or possession may be maintained, subject to defenses that the tenant may have under the lease or agreement.

History of Section.
P.L. 1970, ch. 325, 1; P.L. 1972, ch. 118, 9.