In the State of Rhode Island, there are essentially three ways to evict, or remove, a residential tenant from your property (Commercial tenants, like businesses or retail stores, are treated differently, and we’ll talk about those in a later post). They are commonly referred to as 9-Day Non-Payment Evictions, 20-Day Eviction for Reasons Other Than Non-Payment and abandonment. All three types of evictions are governed by the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, RIGL sec. 34-18 et seq., and all three are subject to strict timelines and notice requirements. This post will deal exclusively (and generally) about Evictions for Non-Payment.
9-Day Non-Payment Evictions
When your tenant has become more than 15 days late with the rent, a landlord must send a Five-Day Demand Letter to the tenant by regular, first class mail, demanding the rent be paid within 5 days of the date of the notice. It’s important to note that you must wait until at least the 16th of the month if you want to include the current months rent in your demand. If the tenant pays all back rent set forth in the notice… great, you’re done and have a compliant tenant! Keep in mind that the Tenant has only one chance to cure a default in 12 months.
If you do not receive all the rent set forth in the notice, on the 6thday you may file the Compliant for Eviction. This is a form obtained from the District Court for the county, or Division, where the property is located. The Complaint and a copy of the 5-day Demand Notice is then filed with the Court. The District Court Clerk will process the Complaint and prepare a Summons to be served on the Tenant by a licensed Constable. The Summons contains explicit instruction to the Tenant for answering or responding to the Complaint. Within the Summons will be a hearing date set by the Court nine (9) days from the date of filing. This is your trial date, and you should be prepared to provide testimony regarding your ownership of the property and the Defendant’s tenancy and payment history. At the hearing the Court encourages the parties to meet privately and try to reach a compromise. If they do, it can be written up and entered as a Stipulation and will be signed by the Judge.
If everything goes according to plan, you should receive a judgment for possession and all back rent through the day of the hearing. After the hearing, the Tenant has 5 days to appeal that judgment to the Superior Court. Assuming there is no appeal, on the sixth day after the hearing you can obtain a Writ of Execution to physically remove the Tenant and their belongings from the property.
Finally, It's important to note that the landlord cannot serve the Execution themselves. It must be served by a licensed sheriff or constable. The landlord is responsible for this expense, as well as movers and the first month's storage of the tenant's furniture and possessions. If the tenant wishes to get their stuff back, they will pay the moving and storage fees, and the landlord will get reimbursed.