What You Need to Know About Evictions in Rhode Island

What You Need to Know About Evictions in Rhode Island

Colorful tabs sticking out of filed eviction papers.

There have been a lot of changes in the world due to the pandemic. Housing situations have been affected for both tenants and landlords alike. If you live in Rhode Island or are thinking about moving there but don’t know what the current, legal living situation is like,  we’ve put together a helpful guide detailing the ins and outs of the eviction process.

downloadable graphic reading, "moving blog, What you need to know about evictions in Rhode Island"
Save our blog to Pinterest!

Is the eviction moratorium still in effect in Rhode Island?

No. Currently, there is no ban on evictions. Note, that this does not mean that landlords in Rhode Island can immediately evict tenants from their homes. All of the steps to legally file for eviction in Rhode Island must still be followed.

How to evict a tenant in Rhode Island

There are several reasons why a landlord may attempt to evict a tenant in Rhode Island, such as violation of the lease agreement, the end of lease term arriving, or illegal activity. We will be taking a closer look at one of the most common reasons for eviction– failure to pay rent. Here are the steps that must be taken in order to legally evict a tenant in Rhode Island.

Step one: Post a Notice to Pay

According to Rhode Island law, rent is considered late the day after it is due. However, landlords cannot file a Notice to Pay until the rent is 15 days past due. After 15 days of failure to receive rent, landlords can serve tenants with a 5-Day Notice to Quit. This allows tenants a 5-day grace period to pay their owed rent in full.  Technically, this is the start of the eviction process in the state of Rhode Island. If the tenant does not pay their past rent after 5 days, then landlords should proceed to the next step in the eviction process.

A stack of Rhode Island eviction files.

FAQ: How long does it take for a landlord to evict a tenant in Rhode Island?

The eviction process in Rhode Island can take anywhere from 1-4 months. However, if the tenants file an appeal, then the process can take even longer.

Step two: File Complaint for Eviction of Nonpayment of Rent

The second step in the eviction process for Rhode Island landlords is to file a Complaint for Eviction of Nonpayment of Rent in the district court. This will set a date for an eviction hearing. For nonpayment of rent evictions in Rhode Island, tenants must be served at least 5 days before the conviction hearing. Note, landlords must mail their tenants a copy of the complaint filed via first-class mail, as well as do one of the following:

  • Leaving a copy with someone at least 18 years or older at the rental unit
  • Posting a copy on the door of the rental unit (only if the tenant or a “suitable” person cannot be found)
  • Giving a copy to the tenant in person

FAQ: Does it cost money to file an eviction notice in Rhode Island?

Yes. The district courts have an $80 fee for filing a Complaint for Eviction of Nonpayment of Rent.

Looking to move soon?

Check out UniMovers and save 30-50% on your move as compared with traditional moving!

Step three: An Answer to the Complaint is filed

For this step, tenants in Rhode Island are required to file a written answer to the complaint in order to attend the eviction hearing. The reason for the eviction determines when the answer must be filed. For instance, answers to complaints for nonpayment of rent can be answered anytime prior to the court hearing. In addition, they can be filed at the hearing itself. For evictions due to lease violations or for tenants living in the rental unit after the lease term has expired, answers must be filed with the court within 20 days of receiving the complaint. Note, if a tenant fails to file their written answer, the judicial officer may issue a default judgment in favor of the landlord.

Tenant writing answer to eviction complaint in Rhode Island.

FAQ: How long do landlords have to wait for an eviction hearing after a complaint has been filed?

Typically, the eviction hearing is scheduled about 9 days after the complaint has been filed and served to tenants in Rhode Island.

Step four: Court Hearing and Judgement

Next, the landlord must attend a court hearing where a judge will decide whether the eviction process will continue. Here, landlords and tenants may present their cases. Both parties should gather all information they have that may help support their case. Importantly, if the tenant fails to show, the judge may grant a default judgment in favor of the landlord. Tenants will have 5 days after the ruling to appeal.

Court gavel from a Rhode Island eviction hearing resting on table top.

Step five: Issue a Writ of Execution

A Writ of Execution serves as the final notice for tenants to leave the property. Here, tenants are given time to remove their belongings before a sheriff returns to the property in order to forcibly remove them. The writ is issued about 6 days after the ruling. It is the landlord’s responsibility to give the writ to the sheriff in order to execute it.

Step six: Possession of property is returned

Rhode Island state law does not specify just how much time a tenant will have before law officials act on the Writ of Execution. For this reason, tenants should be prepared to move out at any time. Hiring movers may be a good idea for tenants. It will help speed up the process and ensure that all items remain in the tenant’s possession before the writ is executed.

A man packing black boxes to move out of his home following an eviction in Rhode Island.

FAQ: What if the tenant leaves the rental unit but they leave behind items?

Landlords are responsible for removing all items left behind in the rental unit. Depending on the number of items left, hiring movers may be a good option for landlords looking to clear out the unit.

Aubrey graduated from UCLA in 2019 with dual degrees in English and Psychology, as well as receiving a concentration in Fiction Creative Writing. Her writing can be found at Locale Magazine, UCLA's MindWell pod, HerCampus, Westwind, and Bloody Donuts. Aubrey currently lives in Los Angeles with her orange tabby cat, Bowie, and spends her free time reading anything she can get her hands on and soaking up the golden California sun. You can find her hiking the Laguna trails, making jewelry, or exploring the local library.