Rhode Island landlords must follow specific rules and procedures when evicting a tenant (see the article How Evictions Work: What Renters Need to Know, on this site). The state forbids landlords from taking the law into their own hands. Examples of illegal “self-help” evictions include changing the locks, removing the front door, or turning off the heat or electricity—all of which may be the basis for a tenant suing a landlord. A tenant may sue for three months’ rent or three times the actual damages in Rhode Island, whichever is greater. A court in Rhode Island may also award a tenant court costs and attorney fees.
If you decide to sue your landlord for an illegal eviction, check Rhode Island law (you’ll find Rhode Island rules prohibiting self-help evictions at R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-34). See the Laws and Legal Research section of this site for advice on finding and reading statutes.
It’s also a good idea to get advice from a local tenants’ rights group in Rhode Island. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website includes information on tenant advocates for each state.
Finally, consider consulting an experienced tenants’ lawyer. See the article Tips on Hiring and Working With Lawyers on this site for advice.
For a wide range of other articles of interest to tenants, see the Renters’ and Tenants’ Rights section on this site.