The Rhode Island Landlord and Tenant Act of 1987 sets up a specific procedure landlords must follow if they want to evict tenants. While the law gives landlords some leeway in allowable reasons for eviction, it does require them to abide by the conditions of the lease and will not allow them to evict tenants for trying to protect their rights.
If a tenant hasn't paid rent within 15 days of the time it was due, the landlord can send a written notice demanding payment to avoid eviction. The notice must state the specific amount due and inform the tenant of a five-day deadline from the date the notice was mailed before the landlord can go to court to begin eviction proceedings. The tenant can stop eviction proceedings for nonpayment of rent by paying all the back rent before or at the eviction hearing. A judge will not evict a tenant who can prove he or she tried to pay rent but was rejected.
Regardless of the landlord's reason for eviction, the eviction proceedings must follow specific legal guidelines. The landlord is required to file forms specific to the reason for eviction at the local district court. The court must then send copies of the summons and complaint to the tenant, who has the right to file a legal answer with any supporting evidence showing that the landlord has misstated the tenant's noncompliance with the lease. The final decision will be made by a judge at a public hearing, at which an evicted tenant can be legally required to pay court fees and fines of up to three months rent.
Landlords are not legally allowed to shut tenants out of apartments without going through the eviction proceedings outlined in the law. If a landlord changes the locks, shuts off the gas or takes other actions meant to force the tenant to leave, the tenant can get a judge to force the landlord to allow him back into the apartment and sue the landlord for monetary damages. Landlords are also legally prohibited from evicting tenants for calling the code office, forming a tenant organization or any other legal activity meant to protect the tenants' rights.