In Rhode Island, landlords have certain rights and responsibilities under landlord-tenant law, including the right to evict a tenant for noncompliance to the terms of the lease. Noncompliance can occur in a number of ways, which we will discuss in the following article.
Even so, there is a process you must follow to terminate the tenancy. A lndlord cannot take matters into their own hands and evict the tenant without following the correct procedure.
The only way a landlord can evict a tenant in Rhode Island is by going through the state’s 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, you must first have a legal cause. A legal cause is a legitimate reason for eviction. The following are examples of legal grounds to evict a tenant as per Rhode Island law.
- Nonpayment of rent
- Staying after the lease has expired
- Lease violation
- Illegal activity
Next, a landlord must terminate the tenancy by serving the correct eviction notice. The eviction notice may or may not be curable. Regardless, the tenant must comply within the notice period. If they do not, you can continue with the eviction.
The next step in the Rhode Island eviction process is filing a lawsuit in an appropriate court. A summons and complaint will be issued and both you and the tenant will be required to attend the eviction hearing.
If the judgment favors you at the eviction hearing, the court will issue you with a writ of execution. This will be the tenant’s final note to leave the premises. The writ gives a sheriff the power to forcefully evict a tenant 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 violation, 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. You can evict a tenant for paying rent late. This notice gives the tenant 5 days to pay the due balance or vacate the property. 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 doesn’t pay the balance or move out within 5 days after you served them the notice, you can move to court and file a lawsuit.
- 30-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. You must use this eviction notice when trying to evict a tenant on a month-to-month lease. The notice will give the tenant up to 30 days to move out.
For tenants on other periodic leases, the notice period may differ. For instance, to evict a tenant on a week-to-week lease, you must serve them a 10 days’ notice. For tenants on a year-to-year lease, you must give them a 90 days’ notice.
- 20-Day Notice to Cure or Vacate. This is the written notice you 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.
The 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. Rhode Island 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. You can proceed with the eviction immediately by filing a lawsuit with the appropriate court.
You can also use our eviction notice templates here:
Serving a Tenant With an Eviction in Rhode Island
You 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 notice 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 move out within the notice period, you can proceed to the appropriate housing court and file a complaint. Expect this to cost you about $80 in filing fees.
The court will then issue you 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 them.
- The eviction was in retaliation to exercising a legal right, such as withholding 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 them and return possession of the property back to you.
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 you 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 property 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 property management may change, rendering this information outdated by the time you read it.