Rhode Island Eviction Laws

Landlords should familiarize themselves with the statewide rules and procedures that govern evictions in the state of Rhode Island and understand their responsibilities.

Quick Facts for Rhode Island

  • Grounds for Eviction: Failure to pay rent, lease term violation(s), participation in illegal activity & failure to maintain safety & cleanliness of property
  • Notice Required for Nonpayment of Rent: 5-Day Notice to Pay
  • Notice Required for Eviction without Cause: 10, 30 & 90-Day Notice to Terminate Tenancy for weekly, monthly & yearly tenants respectively
  • Notice Required for Lease Violations: 20-Day Notice to Cure
  • Fastest a Landlord Can Evict for Illegal Acts: Immediately (no notice required), via Immediate Eviction Complaint
  • Duration for Tenant to Appeal Eviction Ruling: 5 days

How Long Does it Take to Evict a Tenant in Rhode Island?

The answer to how long it will take to evict a tenant is always difficult. There are many things that will influence the amount of time an eviction may take. In the state of Rhode Island, a landlord is required to provide his/her tenant with a written Notice in most instances. The amount of time that the tenant will have to remedy an issue or vacate the rental property may vary widely depending upon the reason an eviction is being sought.

In extreme cases, the landlord may terminate the rental agreement immediately and move forward with the eviction process. However, the tenant will generally have between five and 90 days in which to move from the rental property before an eviction process proceeds to the court.

Once a Summons and Complaint is filed with the court, the tenant has the right to take up to 20 days to respond with an answer. If a tenant seeks to fight the eviction process, he/she will provide an answer to the Summons and Complaint and a hearing will be scheduled. Even if the court provides a ruling in favor of the landlord, the tenant still has the right to appeal the court decision.

Looking at the process for the eviction of a tenant in the state of Rhode Island, it is clear that there are two elements that will profoundly impact the amount of time required to evict a tenant. One of these will be the reason for which the landlord is seeking to evict the tenant. The other, and often the most significant element, is the tenant’s willingness to fight the eviction process.

Reasons for Eviction in Rhode Island

The state of Rhode Island has established a variety of reasons why a landlord may legitimately seek to evict a tenant. These reasons include:

  • Failure to pay rent
  • Violation of the terms of the lease or rental agreement
  • Participation in illegal activity
  • Failure to maintain the property in a safe and clean condition

Eviction for Failure to Pay Rent

If a tenant has failed to pay rent within 15 days of when it is due in the state of Rhode Island, the landlord may send a written 5-Day Notice to Pay (R.I.G.L. 34-18-56a). This notice must inform the tenant of the total amount owed and state that he/she has 5 days to pay the outstanding rent and fees or the rental agreement will terminate and the landlord will seek an eviction. If the tenant fails to pay the outstanding rent in the time allowed, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process by filing a Complaint for Eviction for Nonpayment of Rent with the district court.

The landlord must send a copy of the Summons and Complaint to the tenant through first-class mail. The court sheriff will also receive copies of these documents to serve on the tenant. If the tenant wishes to fight the eviction process, the answer form should be completed and returned to the court. The tenant will also need to attend the hearing. The tenant will also need to attend the hearing. The tenant may also stop the eviction process by paying the outstanding rental amount up to the court hearing.

NOTE

The tenant may only remedy an outstanding rent eviction process by paying his/her outstanding rent once within a six-month period.

If the tenant has attempted to pay outstanding rent, but the landlord refused to accept payment, the court will not allow the landlord to evict a tenant for nonpayment.

Eviction if Rent has Been Paid

It is illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant for failure to pay rent so long as the tenant has attempted to pay the rent in full before the eviction hearing unless the tenant has already remedied a failure to pay rent eviction process by paying rent within the past six months.

However, when a tenant is renting month-to-month without the benefit of a written lease, the landlord may seek to evict the tenant without cause. In such instances the landlord may seek to evict the tenant, referred to as an “at-will” tenant, by first providing him/her with a written 30-Day Notice to Terminate Tenancy. If the tenant fails to vacate the property within the time allowed in the notice, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process by filing a Summons and Complaint with the court. If the “at-will” tenant wishes to fight such an eviction, he/she has 20 days to file an answer with the court.

Evicting a Tenant For Violation of Rental Agreement/Lease

In the state of Rhode Island, when a tenant has violated a term of the lease in a substantial way, the landlord must first provide a written 20-Day Notice to Cure to the tenant before he/she may proceed with the eviction process. If the tenant fails to remedy the situation or move from the property by the 21st day following the notice, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process by filing a Complaint for Eviction for Reason Other than Nonpayment of Rent with the court (R.I.G.L. 34-18-56b).

Evicting a Tenant for Illegal Behavior

A landlord in the state of Rhode Island is not required to provide his/her tenant with a written notice if the tenant has been involved with illegal drugs, committed any criminally violent act on the rental property, or if the tenant has participated in any criminally violent activity or activity associated with illegal drugs on any public property adjacent to the rental property (R.I.G.L.34-18-56C). In these instances, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process immediately by filing an Immediate Eviction Complaint with the court.

How Does a Landlord Evict a Tenant in Rhode Island When There is no Lease?

When a tenant is renting without the benefit of a written lease, he/she is considered an “at-will” tenant and does not have the same protections as a tenant renting under a written lease, In the state of Rhode Island, a landlord may evict an “at-will” tenant without cause. To do so he/she must follow specific timelines, however. When seeking to evict a tenant who rents on a weekly basis, the landlord must provide a written 10-Day Notice to Quit. When seeking to evict a month-to-month “at-will” tenant a landlord must provide a 30-Day Notice to Quit. When seeking to evict an “at-will” tenant who rents on a yearly basis, the landlord must provide a 90-Day Notice to Quit before he/she may proceed with the eviction process.

Read more about tenants at will here.

If the tenant fails to vacate the property within the time allowed in the notice, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process by filing a Summons and Complaint with the court.

When Can a Tenant Not Be Evicted in Rhode Island?

It is illegal for a landlord to attempt to evict a tenant in retaliation for exercising his/her rights. Therefore a landlord may not seek to evict a tenant for reporting code violations or issues concerning the health and safety of a property with the appropriate agencies or for participating in a tenant group. It is also illegal for a landlord to seek to evict a tenant based on his/her race, gender, nation or origin, religion, familial status, or disability status.

Once a Complaint for Eviction for Reason Other than Nonpayment of Rent is Filed

The landlord will have the tenant served with a copy of the Summons and Complaint. The tenant has 20 days to answer the complaint. If the tenant files an answer to the complaint, a hearing will be scheduled. If the tenant does not provide an answer, the landlord may request a default ruling.

If a hearing is held, both sides will be provided with the opportunity to provide their case and the judge will provide a ruling.

Once Eviction Occurs

If the court rules in favor of the landlord, the tenant may be evicted as early as six days following the court ruling. The tenant has five days to request an appeal. The landlord may request a Writ of Restitution allowing the sheriff to physically remove a resistant tenant from the rental property.

Make sure to read the Rhode Island Gen. Laws §§ 34-18-35 to 38 before starting the eviction process. Landlords should make sure to educate themselves on their rights and responsibilities on this topic.

Eviction Process in Other States

Other Resources for Rhode Island Landlords & Tenants