A Guide to the Eviction Process in Rhode Island

Under Rhode Island state law, a written or oral lease is contractually binding. A lease binds tenants to make timely monthly rent payments, maintain certain responsibilities for the rental property, and adhere to the terms of their tenancy. 

If a resident fails to honor lease terms, the Rhode Island landlord-tenant act gives landlords the right to evict the resident. 

Evicting tenants is not as easy as simply removing their belongings from the rental unit or shutting off their utilities. Removing a tenant requires strict compliance with the law. Engaging in such “self-help” tactics is illegal and the resident may even use that as a legal ground to sue you or remain on the property. 

The only legal way to remove a difficult resident from your rental unit is by obtaining a judgment for possession of the property. This allows Landlords to proceed with the removal of a resident while staying compliant with the law.

From start to finish, expect the legal eviction process to take anywhere between one and four months from the date of filing the case. The following is a basic overview of the process. 

  • Have a legal ground. 
  • Send a proper demand to resume paying rent or terminate the tenancy.
  • If the resident fails to comply, file a complaint with the court.
  • Obtain a judgment for possession against the resident.
  • Request a writ of execution. 
  • Obtain the services of a constable to lawfully remove the resident from the rental unit.
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What Is the Rhode Island Eviction Process? A Guide

In the state of Rhode Island, you must have legal grounds to remove a resident. Legal grounds in Rhode Island include nonpayment of rent, extending the term of the lease or rental agreement, violating the lease or rental agreement, resident’s failure to comply with applicable law(s) or engaging in illegal activity. 

Even with legal grounds, you must first serve the resident with proper notice to that their tenancy is being terminated. The type of written notice to serve the resident depends on the reason for the termination. 

The following are the types of notices that may be served: 

5-Day Notice to Pay or Quit

If a resident continues to pay rent late, you must serve them this notice to begin the eviction process. The 5-Day Notice to Pay or Quit will give them five calendar days to pay the entire due rent or move out. If the tenant fails to pay, on the sixth day you may file an Rhode Island eviction action.

30-Day Notice to Quit

If you want to remove a resident who is on a month-to-month tenancy, you have to serve a 30-Day Notice to Quit that gives them a full rental period’s notice to leave. For tenants on other periodic leases, there are different notices. For example, you must serve a 10-day notice to a resident on a week-to-week lease. 

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20-Day Notice to Cure or Vacate 

Has your resident violated a term of the rental agreement, like letting trash pile up, parking in an unauthorized area, or having an unauthorized pet? In these cases, you must serve them a 20-Day Notice to Cure or Vacate. This will give the resident a notice period of a maximum of 20 days to remedy the problem or vacate the premises. 

Immediate Notice to Quit 

If the resident has committed certain criminal activity, you may be able to file an eviction action immediately. For certain crimes, you don’t have to provide the resident with prior written notice. Examples of illegal activity include felony assault, possession of a controlled substance, or manufacture of a controlled substance on the premises.

Serving an Eviction Notice in Rhode Island 

As a Rhode Island landlord, you have a responsibility to mail the resident the correct eviction notice for termination of tenancy. It must be mailed first class, regular mail and not certified mail. 

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Resident Eviction Defenses in Rhode Island 

These are reasons a resident may give in court to stop their eviction. The following are some examples. 

  • The resident didn’t commit the alleged lease violation. 
  • The resident fixed the lease violations within the notice period. For example, pay rent that was overdue within five days. 
  • The notice of eviction contained some significant irregularities. For example, it failed to mention the effective date of lease termination. 
  • The resident withheld rent payments because the landlord failed to make the requested repairs.  
  • The eviction was in retaliation to the resident exercising their right, such as forming or joining a residents’ union to champion their rights. 
  • The eviction was because of the resident’s race, color, religion, nationality, disability, or any other protected class under the Fair Housing Act. 

Attending the Eviction Hearing 

Both the landlord and resident are expected to attend the court hearing. If the resident does not appear at the district court hearing, often the judge rules in your favor as a default judgment.

Tenants have five days to appeal their eviction lawsuit. After a successful judgment, the court will issue execution within six days after the ruling. You’ll then need to give the writ to the sheriff to execute it. 

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Writ of Execution 

A writ of execution, or execution, is the final notice for the resident to leave the premises during an eviction lawsuit. Under Rhode Island law, a constable can execute it immediately or after a few days. 

Rhode Island Eviction Process: Bottom Line

This is an outline of the state’s eviction process. If you have a question or need expert help in eviction of your resident, Stonelink Property Management can help. Not only that, but we cover all aspects of property management. If you want assistance marketing your property, collecting rent, drafting a lease agreement or doing maintenance, we’re here for you.

Stonelink Property Management is one of the fastest-growing property management companies in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts. We’ve been helping landlords like you for a decade. Get in touch to learn more! 

Disclaimer: This blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Laws change, and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. Please contact us for any questions you have in regards to this content or any other aspect of your property management needs. 

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