Rhode Island Eviction Law

Posted by Christopher Berkompas in Rhode Island

Note: I am not a lawyer, and this does not constitute legal advice.

What circumstances qualify a legal cause for an eviction?

Like most states, Rhode Island allows for eviction in the following circumstances:

When the tenant...

  • Fails to pay rent when it is due.  Take note, however, that if the landlord has been in the habit of accepting late rent, the court will find that the date when payment was due to have shifted.
  • Breaches the lease.  When the tenant substantially violates a term of the lease, he may be liable for eviction; especially if the lease specifically states eviction as the consequence of breaching that particular term.  This would include damaging the property.
  • Fails to leave after the lease ends.  A tenant may be evicted for failing to leave the premises after the lease has expired or been properly terminated.

How does the eviction process work?

The most common case where a landlord seeks eviction is when the tenant fails to pay rent.  when this is the landlord's reason for seeking eviction, he must give the tenant a 5 day notice to pay the rent or leave the property.  This is known as a "Pay or quit" notice.  However, if the reason is because of illegal use of drugs, or other violent crimes committed on the property, no notice is necessary before going to court.

To begin an eviction proceeding, the landlord must file a complaint with the court, which will then set a hearing with 9 days.  The landlord will then be responsible to give his complaint to the sheriff, in order to be served on the tenant.  If the tenant does not appear at the hearing, default judgment will be issued in favor of the landlord, so a tenant who feels like he has a case ought not to miss it.  Shortly after the hearing, the court will make it's decision.

If in favor of the landlord, the tenant will be ordered to leave, and will be forced to do so by the local sheriff if he still refuses.  The amount of time the tenant will be given to move varies, and will be set by the court.


If the cause for eviction can be resolved by making repairs or paying damages is the landlord required to give the tenant a certain period of time to fix the problem?

Generally, if the tenant can solve all of the problems prior to the court making a decision, the eviction will not be able to proceed.  If, on the other hand, he tries to do so afterwards, it will be up to the landlord to accept it or not.  

Can a landlord evict a tenant for having a pet?

Yes, if it is against the terms of the lease.  It will be the landlord's burden to prove to the court that it is a significant enough violation to warrant eviction.

What happens after a tenant contests and wins and eviction case in court?

A tenant who wins an eviction action will not be forced to move.  He will be permitted to stay until the original lease term ends.

Can a tenant be evicted if the landlord wants to use the unit himself?

No.  A tenant cannot be evicted before the end of the lease except for violating it or doing damage to the premises in some significant way.  A landlord may not evict a tenant simply at his whim.

Is it legal for a landlord to demand unpaid rent for the remainder of the lease term?

Only through the court, which alone can order the tenant to pay back rent or other such costs.


Rhode Island Eviction handbook

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