A Guide to the Eviction Process in Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, property owners have certain rights and responsibilities under landlord-tenant law, including the right to evict a tenant for noncompliance to the terms of the tenant’s lease. Noncompliance can occur in a number of ways, which we will discuss in the following article. 

Even so, there is a process a landlord must follow to terminate the tenancy. A landlord cannot take matters into their own hands and evict the tenant without following the correct procedure. 

The only way a landlord can preform an eviction in Rhode Island is by going through the Rhode Island eviction process and obtaining a court order. This blog will take you through everything you need to know about this important process. 

What Is the Rhode Island Eviction Process? Here Is a Guide

Before going to court, a landlord must first have a legal cause. A legal cause is a legitimate reason for evictions and cannot be for discriminatory purposes. The following are examples of legal grounds to evict a tenant as per Rhode Island state law. 

  • Nonpayment of rent
  • Staying after the lease or rental agreement has expired
  • Lease violation
  • Illegal activity

Next, a landlord must terminate the tenancy by serving the correct notice. The written notice may or may not be curable. Regardless, the tenant must comply with the notice period. If they do not, the landlord can continue with the eviction. 

landlord-handing-eviction-notice-to-tenant

The next step in the Rhode Island evictions process is filing an eviction lawsuit in the appropriate court. A summons and complaint will be issued and both the landlord and the tenant will be required to attend the eviction hearing. 

If the judgment favors the Rhode Island landlord at the court hearing, the court will issue them with a writ of execution. This will be the tenant’s final note to leave the rental unit. The writ gives a sheriff the power to forcefully evict a renter from a rental property. 

Notice for Lease Termination With Legal Cause 

As previously mentioned, Rhode Island law allows landlords to evict tenants under certain circumstances. Such reasons include not paying rent, lease violations, and illegal activity. 

However, the type of eviction notice to serve is dependent upon the cause of eviction. They are as follows. 

  • 5-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit. A landlord can evict a renter for paying rent late or nonpayment of rent. This gives the tenant 5 days to pay the due balance or vacate the rental unit. If the tenant is already moving out and they have leftover rent to pay, you can use their security deposit to cover the costs.

In Rhode Island, rent is considered late on the 15th day after its due date. If the tenant fails to pay the outstanding rent balance or moves out within 5 days after you served the tenant the notification, you can move to court and file an eviction lawsuit. 

  • 30-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. A landlord must use this eviction notice when trying to evict a tenant in Rhode Island on a month-to-month lease agreement. This will give the tenant up to 30 days to move out. 
cardboard-moving-boxes-on-table

For tenants on other periodic leases, the notification period may differ. For instance, to evict a tenant on a week-to-week rental agreement, a landlord must serve them a 10-day notice. For tenants on a year-to-year lease, you must give them a 90-day notice. 

  • 20-Day Notice to Cure or Vacate. This is the written notice the landlord must serve a tenant for committing a lease violation. It will give the tenant up to 20 days to either fix the issue or move out.

This applies to various types of violations. Including, parking in an unauthorized area, letting trash pile up, and having an unauthorized pet. 

  • Immediate Written Notice to Quit. State law also allows landlords to evict a tenant for committing illegal activity. Unlike other types, there is no requirement to give a tenant prior notice before filing an eviction action. The landlord can proceed with the tenant eviction immediately by filing a lawsuit with the correct court. 

A landlord can also use our eviction notice templates here:

Serving a Tenant With an Eviction in Rhode Island

A landlord must serve an eviction notice in accordance with the state law. Rhode Island requires landlords to do it in either of the following two ways. 

  • Giving the eviction notices to the tenant in person. 
  • Mailing a copy to the tenant’s last address via first-class mail. 

Make sure to keep a copy for documentation purposes. This is an important document that you may need in court as evidence. 

Tenant Eviction Defences in Rhode Island

If the violation is curable, but the tenant refuses to comply or moves out within the stated period, a landlord can proceed to the appropriate housing court and file a complaint. Expect this to cost you about $80 in filing fees. 

judge-holding-gavel-in-court

The court will then issue the landlord with a summons and complaint. This will need to be served to the tenant by a process server. State law doesn’t specify how quickly the summons and complaint must be served to the tenant. 

Next, the tenant will have the opportunity to file an answer. The following are examples of defenses the tenant may give to stop their eviction. It’s important to be aware of these reasons in order to understand and anticipate potential legal challenges.

  • The landlord used “self-help” eviction methods to remove the tenant. 
  • The eviction was in retaliation to exercising a legal right, such as nonpayment of rent when the landlord refused to make a requested repair. 
  • The eviction was based on the tenant’s race, color, disability, nationality, or any other protected class. 
  • The tenant corrected the violation within the notice period. 

Attending the Court Hearing 

State law doesn’t specify how quickly evictions must be held after a complaint is filed. The only exception is if the eviction is due to failure to pay rent, which must be held on the 9th day after the complaint is filed. 

If the judge rules in your favor, you’ll be issued with a writ of execution and the eviction will proceed. If the tenant doesn’t move out on their own, the sheriff will forcefully remove the tenant and return possession of the rental unit back to you. 

Bottom Line

From start to finish, the Rhode Island eviction process to take anywhere between a month and four months. It’s crucial for landlords to thoroughly understand these laws, as it will enable them to navigate the eviction process more effectively and ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

If you have a question regarding any part of this blog or need help with the management of your property, Lyon Property Management can help. We provide professional management services to property owners in Rhode Island and Southern Massachusetts. Get in touch to learn more!

Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided in this blog is intended for general guidance and should not be considered as a replacement for professional legal advice. It is important to be aware that laws pertaining to rental management may change, rendering this information outdated by the time you read it.