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Evicting a Problem Tenant

If you’re a landlord, you know all too well how difficult some tenants can be. Whether they consistently fail to pay rent on time (or at all!), they’re messy to the point of safety violations or they fail to heed noise regulations, sometimes you have no choice but to start eviction proceedings. You’ve likely given them plenty of notices and warnings, but if they ignore them, what’s a landlord to do? There is a legal process in place that you must follow in order to stay within the confines of the law.

In Rhode Island, if a tenant fails to pay the rent within 15 days of the due date, the landlord can send a written notice specifying the overdue amount and that it must be paid within five days of the mailing. Failing that, the rental agreement will end and the landlord will head to court to start eviction proceedings.

If the landlord still does not get the overdue rent from the tenant, they can file an eviction complaint in the local district court. To do this, they can send copies to the tenant of the eviction complaint, court summons and tenant answer form via first-class mail. The court sheriff will also serve copies to the tenant.

The tenant is told to attend the hearing, at which time they can provide a defense as to why they didn’t pay the rent. Up until that hearing, the tenant can still pay the rent and the eviction will be cancelled. There are exceptions to this, such as for those tenants who have received another five-day notice over the prior six months.

The court will not allow eviction for non-payment if tenants can prove they attempted to make a full payment but the landlord refused it. A landlord cannot take eviction action if the rent has been paid but late fees have not.

Reasons to Evict

A landlord can legally evict a tenant for anything from failing to pay rent to violating the lease or rental agreement. The process in a nutshell is this:

  • Five-Day Notice to Pay Rent (as noted above)
  • 20-Day Notice to Remedy: When a tenant violates the lease or rental agreement in some way, the landlord may send a 20-day notice to remedy or the rental agreement will be terminated.
  • No Notice Required: Sometimes, landlords can immediately terminate the tenancy and proceed with eviction if a violent crime on the premises was involved, a seasonal tenant violates local occupancy ordinates such as disturbing the peace, or the tenant uses or sells drugs on the premises.

In the end, the only way a landlord may legally remove a tenant from an apartment rental unit is by bringing an eviction lawsuit against the tenant and winning it. A law enforcement officer with a court order will handle the actual eviction. Just remember, if you as the landlord attempt to force the tenant to leave illegally, your tenant can sue you. Go through the proper channels to protect yourself. We can help.

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