Unless your lease states otherwise, you have the right to possess and hold all of the leased premises including the basement. So, though I am not licensed in RI, I suspect that the landlords actions are illegal. You may want to consult an attorney. In Maryland there are procedures to place rent into a court escrow account until the Inspector reports that code violations are remedied.
All responses I provide on this site are for informational purposes only and are not offered as legal advise. You should consult with an attorney prior to taking any legal action.
It is against the law for a RI landlord to retaliate against a tenant who calls code enforcement. I do not know if that is what he is doing.
I am not your attorney and I am not giving legal advice. I am giving you general information about the law. To give you legal advice I would first have to learn more about the facts and circumstances of your particular situation. The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers in the general practice of law. The court does not license or certify any lawyer as an expert or specialist in any particular field of practice.