Evicting a tenant in Rhode Island can take around 1 to 4 months, depending on the reason for the eviction. If tenants file an appeal, the process can take longer.
Grounds for an Eviction in Rhode Island
In Rhode Island, a landlord cannot legally evict a tenant without cause. Legal grounds to evict include:
- Not paying rent on time
- Staying after the lease ends
- Violating lease terms
- Illegal activity
Depending on the grounds for eviction, the landlord must give proper notice and provide the tenant a chance to cure the violation.
|Nonpayment of Rent
|End of Lease or No Lease
Nonpayment of Rent
In Rhode Island, a landlord can evict a tenant for not paying rent on time. Once rent is 15 days past due, the landlord can provide tenants with a 5 days’ notice to pay rent or vacate the premises. If the tenant does neither after that time, the landlord can move forward and file an eviction lawsuit.
Unless the lease states otherwise, rent is due at the beginning of each month and is considered late in Pennsylvania on the 15th day after the due date. Once rent is 15 days late, the landlord can begin the eviction process by serving the tenant with proper notice.
If rent is due on April 1st, it will be considered late starting on April 16th, unless the lease specifically states there is a grace period.
End of Lease or No Lease
In Rhode Island, a landlord can evict a tenant who does not have a lease (“tenant at will”) or has a lease that has terminated and continues to remain on the premises (“holdover tenant”). To do so, they must first terminate the tenancy by giving a proper 30 days’ notice to move out.
Once the tenancy ends, if the tenant remains on the property, the landlord can move forward and file an eviction lawsuit.
In Rhode Island, a landlord can evict a tenant for violating the terms of their lease or not upholding their responsibilities. To do so, the landlord must give 20 days’ notice to fix the issue or move out.
For all lease violations, a tenant has the opportunity to correct the issue to avoid eviction.
Examples of lease violations:
- Having an unauthorized pet, guest or vehicle
- Parking in an unauthorized area
- Not maintaining a certain level of cleanliness
- Letting trash pile up
- Providing a harbor for rodents or bugs
In Rhode Island, a landlord can evict a tenant for committing an illegal activity. Landlords are not required to give tenants who are involved in illegal activity prior notice before filing an eviction action with the court.
A tenant does not have the opportunity to correct the issue to avoid eviction.
Illegal activity includes:
- Having narcotics at the rental property
- Manufacturing, selling or delivering a controlled substance
- Possessing a controlled substance with intent to manufacture, sell or deliver
- Committing an act of murder, manslaughter, arson, mayhem, rape, sexual assault or kidnapping
- Assaulting a person with a dangerous weapon or committing an act of battery causing “grave” bodily injury
- Committing a felony assault with intent to commit another crime, or any other violent crime
If a tenant commits an illegal activity, the landlord may immediately proceed with an eviction action.
Illegal Evictions in Rhode Island
In Rhode Island, there are a few different types of evictions that are illegal. If found liable, the landlord could be required to pay the tenant 3 months periodic rent or three times the actual damages sustained, whichever is greater, plus reasonable attorneys’ fees.
A landlord is not allowed to forcibly remove a tenant by:
- Changing the locks
- Shutting off utilities
- Diminishing essential services
- Removing tenant belongings
A tenant can only be legally removed with a court order obtained through the formal eviction process.
It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant in response to exercising a legally protected right. These rights include:
- The tenant has complained to the landlord or a governmental agency regarding a building or housing code violation that materially affects health and safety
- The tenant has organized or became a member of a tenants’ union or similar organization
- The tenant has availed himself or herself of any other lawful rights and remedies
In Rhode Island, all evictions follow the same process:
- Landlord serves tenant written notice of violations
- Landlord files complaint with court for unresolved issues
- Answer is filed
- Court holds hearing and issues judgment
- Writ of execution is issued
- Possession of property is returned to landlord
Step 1: Landlord Serves Notice to Tenant
A landlord can begin the eviction process in Rhode Island by serving the tenant with written notice. The notice must be delivered by one of the following methods:
- Giving it to the tenant in person
- Mailing the notice to the tenant via first class mail.
Landlords should always keep the original signed notice and declaration of service as proof of proper service if the case proceeds to court.
5-Day Notice to Pay Rent or Quit
If a tenant is late on paying rent (full or partial) in Rhode Island, the landlord can serve them a 5-Day Notice to Pay or Quit. This notice gives the tenant 5 days to pay the entire remaining balance or vacate the premises.
30-Day Notice to Quit
For a tenant with no lease or a month-to-month lease in Rhode Island, the landlord must serve them a 30-Day Notice to Quit to end the tenancy. This eviction notice allows the tenant 30 days to move out.
For tenants that don’t pay monthly, the amount of notice differs:
|Rent Payment Frequency
20-Day Notice to Cure or Vacate
In Rhode Island, if a tenant commits a violation of the terms of their lease or legal responsibilities as a tenant, the landlord can serve them a 20-Day Notice to Cure or Vacate. This eviction notice gives the tenant 20 days to fix the issue or move out.
Immediate Notice to Quit
In Rhode Island, a landlord can evict a tenant for committing illegal activity. No prior notice is necessary, and the landlord may immediately proceed with filing an eviction lawsuit with the appropriate court. The landlord does not need to give the tenant an option to fix the issue and the tenant must move out.
Step 2: Landlord Files Lawsuit with Court
As the next step in the eviction process, Rhode Island landlords must file a complaint in district court or the appropriate housing court. In the state of Rhode Island, this costs $80 in filing fees.
The reason for the eviction determines when and how the summons and complaint must be served on the tenant.
For nonpayment of rent evictions, the summons and complaint must be served at least 5 days prior to the eviction hearing through one of the following methods:
- Giving a copy to the tenant in person
- Leaving a copy with someone of “suitable” age at the rental unit
- Posting a copy in a conspicuous place on the rental unit (only if tenant or a “suitable” person cannot be found)
- Mailing a copy to the tenant via first class mail
For all other evictions, the summons and complaint must be served by anyone authorized by law or appointed by the court to serve a summons prior to the hearing, through one of the following methods:
- Giving a copy to the tenant in person
- Leaving a copy with someone of “suitable” age at the rental unit
Rhode Island state law doesn’t specify how quickly the summons and complaint must be served on the tenant for the other eviction types.
Step 3: Answer is Filed
Tenants in Rhode Island must file a written answer in order to attend the eviction hearing.
The reason for the eviction determines when the answer must be filed. For nonpayment of rent evictions, the answer can be filed with the court any time prior to or at the hearing, which would give tenants about nine days to file their answer.
For evictions due to a lease violation, the answer must be filed within 20 daysof the date the complaint was served on the tenant.
Tenants being evicted for holding over, or staying in the rental unit after their rental agreement or term has expired, must also file their answer within 20 days of the date they received the complaint.
Regardless of the reason for the eviction, if tenants fail to file their written answer with the court, the judicial officer may issue a default judgment in favor of the landlord, meaning the tenant will have to move out.
Step 4: Court Holds Hearing and Issues Judgment
For nonpayment of rent evictions, the hearing must be held on the ninth day after the complaint was filed with the court.
Rhode Island state law doesn’t specify how quickly eviction hearings for reasons other than nonpayment of rent must be held after the complaint is filed with the court, and it will depend on each court location’s trial schedule.
Regardless of the reason for the eviction, if the tenant fails to appear for the hearing, the judicial officer may issue a default judgment in favor of the landlord, meaning the tenant will have to move out. If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, either through a default judgment or at an eviction hearing, a writ of execution will be issued and the eviction process will continue.
Tenants may appeal within 5 days of the date the judgment was entered in favor of the landlord.
Step 5: Writ of Execution is Issued
The writ of execution is the tenant’s final notice to leave the rental unit, and gives them the opportunity to remove their belongings before the sheriff or certified constable returns to the property to forcibly remove the tenant.
If the court has ruled in the landlord’s favor, the writ of execution will be issued 6 days after the judgment is issued in favor of the landlord.
The writ shall be given to the landlord by the court, and it is the landlord’s responsibility to give the writ to the sheriff to execute the writ.
Step 6: Possession of Property is Returned
Rhode Island state law doesn’t specify how quickly law enforcement officials must act on the writ of execution once it is received from the court. Tenants should be prepared to move out immediately, just in case.
Rhode Island Eviction Process Timeline
In Rhode Island, an eviction can be completed in 1 to 4 months but can take longer depending on the reason for eviction, whether the eviction is contested, which days courts are (or aren’t) in session and other various possible delays.
Below are the parts of the Rhode Island eviction process outside the control of landlords for cases that go uncontested.
|Initial Notice Period
|5-90 Calendar Days
|Court Issuing/Serving Summons
|5 Business Days
|Tenant Response Period
|9-20 Calendar Days
|~9 Business Days
|Court Serving Writ of Execution
|6 Business Days
|Final Notice Period
|1-3 Calendar Days
Flowchart of Rhode Island Eviction Process
Rhode Island Eviction Court Fees
The cost of an eviction in Rhode Island for all filing, court, and service fees can vary heavily based on service fees. Eviction cases shall be filed in District Court and the average cost is $235. The case can also be filed in the appropriate Housing Court.
|Initial Court Filing
|Writ of Execution Issuance
|Writ of Execution Service
|Writ of Execution Enforcement
|Notice of Appeal Filing (Optional)
- 1 RI Gen L §34-18-35 (2020)
- 2 RI Gen L §34-18-37 (2020)
- 3 RI Gen L §34-18-36 (2020)
- 4 RI Gen L §34-18-38.2 (2020)
- 5 RI Gen L §34-18-36 (2020)
- 6 RI Gen L §34-18-24 (2020)
- 7 RI Gen L § 34-18-34 (2021)
- 8 RI Gen L § 34-18-44 (2021)
- 9 RI Gen L § 34-18-46 (2021)
- 10 RI Gen L §34-18-10 (2020)
- 11 RI Gen L §34-18-10 (2020)
- 12 RI District Ct Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 4 (2020)
- 13 RI District Ct Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 4 (2020)
- 14 RI Gen L §34-18-35 (2020)
- 15 RI Gen L §34-18-36 (2020)
- 16 RI Gen L §34-18-38 (2020)
- 17 RI Gen L §9-12-10.1 (2020)
- 18 RI Gen L §34-18-48 (2020)