How Does One Evict a Non-Lease Tenant in Rhode Island?

By Tom Streissguth
Rhode Island requires a lawsuit and court hearing before any eviction.

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Rhode Island laws provide for eviction of tenants under certain conditions. The property owner must file necessary paperwork in civil court and attend a hearing, where a judge will make a decision on the eviction. If there is no lease or written rental agreement, the tenant would have limited grounds for a defense.

Grounds for Eviction

Without a lease agreement, a Rhode Island landlord is free to demand a tenant vacate the unit at any time, for any reason, although the law provides for advance notice if the rent is being paid on time. Even with a lease, a landlord can evict for non-payment of rent, the use of illegal narcotics, violence on the premises, or damage to the unit.

Complaint

The eviction process in Rhode Island begins with the landlord delivering a Notice to Quit to the tenant, at least 30 days before the rent is normally due (if the rent is paid monthly). If the tenant remains, the landlord then files a Complaint in District Court. The court will issue a Summons which the landlord then serves on the tenant, who has 20 days to answer. To avoid a court-ordered eviction, the tenant must prove that a non-lease agreement (such as an oral agreement) exists and that, under this agreement, rent has been paid in full and the tenant is not guilty of any actions that provide grounds for eviction.

Hearing

After the tenant files an Answer to the Complaint, the court will schedule a hearing. If the tenant does not file an Answer, the landlord can request a default judgment against the tenant. Both parties can appear at the hearing to state their case; the tenant can rely on defenses presented in the Answer as well as witnesses and written evidence (such as cancelled rent checks). After the parties state their cases, the presiding judge will rule.

Eviction

In Rhode Island, an eviction can take place six days after the court judgment allowing it. A tenant seeking an extension of this period can request a Stay of Execution at the hearing, or file an appeal in Superior Court no later than five days after the District Court hearing. If the tenant does not pay the rent in full and on time during the appeal, the court will deny the appeal. The law bans "self-help" evictions, in which the landlord physically removes the tenant, changes the locks, or disposes of furniture and other possessions. The law does not require advance notice by the sheriff before the eviction takes place.

About the Author

Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.

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