When evicting a tenant in Rhode Island, a landlord must carefully follow all the rules and procedures set forth by the Rhode Island general statutes; otherwise, the eviction might not be valid. This article will explain some of the basic rules and procedures landlords and property managers must follow when evicting tenants in Rhode Island.
A landlord who wants to evict a tenant before the tenant's lease or rental agreement has ended must have legal cause for eviction. There are several different types of legal cause, as defined by Rhode Island statutes, including failing to pay rent or violating the lease or rental agreement. The first step in the eviction process is for the landlord to give the tenant written notice. The type and length of the notice will depend on the reason, or legal cause, for eviction.
A landlord who does not have legal cause to evict a tenant, but wants the tenant to move anyway, must wait until the tenancy has expired before expecting the tenant to move. In some instances, the landlord will still need to give the tenant written notice to move.
A landlord who wants to end a month-to-month tenancy, but does not have legal cause to evict the tenant, can give the tenant a written 30-day notice to move. This notice must explain to the tenant that the landlord is terminating the tenancy and that the tenant must move out of the rental unit by the end of 30 days. If the tenant does not move out of the rental unit in time, then the landlord can proceed with an eviction against the tenant (see R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-37). Rhode Island Notice Requirements to Terminate a Month-to-Month Tenancy has more information on this subject.
A landlord who wants a tenant with a fixed-term lease to move, but does not have legal cause to evict the tenant, must wait until the lease has expired before expecting the tenant to move. The landlord does not need to give the tenant written notice to move unless the terms of the lease specifically require the landlord to do so. If the tenant does not move out of the rental unit by the end of the lease term, then the landlord should stop accepting rent from the tenant and proceed with an eviction lawsuit against the tenant.
A tenant might still decide to fight an eviction, even if a landlord has legal cause to evict the tenant. The tenant could have a valid legal defense against the eviction, such as the landlord failing to maintain the rental unit or discriminating against the tenant. The tenant's decision to fight the eviction could lead to increased legal costs or allow the tenant more time to stay living in the rental unit. Tenant Defenses to Evictions in Rhode Island has more information on this topic.
The only way a landlord can remove a tenant from a rental unit is by winning an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. Even then, the landlord is not the one who actually evicts the tenant. This can only be done by a law enforcement officer with a court order. It is illegal for the landlord to ever try to force the tenant to move out of the rental unit, and the tenant can sue the landlord for trying. Illegal Eviction Procedures in Rhode Island has more information.
The landlord might find that after the tenant has been evicted, the tenant has left behind personal property. If the landlord believes the personal property has value, then the landlord should not just get rid of the property. The landlord should store the property in a safe location and try to contact the tenant, allowing the tenant a reasonable amount of time to claim the property. If the tenant does not claim the property within a reasonable amount of time, then the landlord can dispose of the property.
Landlords must carefully follow all the rules and procedures required by Rhode Island law when evicting a tenant; otherwise, the eviction may not be valid. Although these rules and procedures may seem burdensome to the landlord, they are there for a reason. Evictions often occur very quickly, and the end result is serious: the tenant has lost a place to live. The rules help ensure the eviction is justified and that the tenant has enough time to find a new home.