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If my apartment is an illegal unit, do I have the right to legal representation/to sue?

The following is an actual conversation between an Uprise RI user and our Helping Hand chat assistant. The most helpful conversations, as determined by our editors, will be showcased on our homepage, with personally identifying details removed when applicable.

Posted May 11, 2024

User: If my apartment is an illegal unit, do I have the right to legal representation/to sue?

The Helping Hand: Discovering that you’re living in an illegal apartment unit can certainly be unsettling. In Rhode Island, tenants of illegal units still have rights, including the right to a safe and habitable living environment. If you’re considering legal action, such as suing for the return of rent paid or for other damages, you generally have the right to sue even without a lawyer, especially in small claims court for matters involving smaller sums of money.

Before taking legal action, it’s important to gather evidence of the unit’s illegality and any correspondence with the landlord regarding this issue. Have you already spoken to your landlord about the apartment being illegal, or have you received any notices from the city or town about it?

User: no

The Helping Hand: It might be a good idea to start by confirming whether your unit is indeed illegal. This typically involves checking with your local city or town’s housing or building department to see if the unit is properly zoned and if it meets Rhode Island’s housing code requirements.

If it turns out that your apartment is illegal, you may want to reach out to a local tenant advocacy group or legal aid organization for guidance on how to proceed. They can help you understand your rights and options, including potential legal representation if you decide to take action against your landlord. Would you like some assistance in finding contact information for local resources that can help you with this matter?

User: [Exited]

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