Attorney General Peter Kilmartin
A. RESIDENTIAL EVICTIONS
Landlord-Tenant matters are specially placed within the jurisdiction of the District Court. R.I. Gen. Laws § 8-8-3(a)(2). A comprehensive procedure for handling of such cases has been set out in Chapter 18 of Title 34 of the General Laws. The procedure to be followed is different depending on the reason for the action.
- ACTIONS FOR NON-PAYMENT OF RENT
A special summons is mandated by law for such actions. At the time of the filing, the clerk must mail a copy of the summons, a copy of the complaint and a blank answer to the defendant by first class mail. R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-10(a).
Additionally, the original and a copy of the summons and a copy of the complaint and a blank answer shall be delivered to a constable for the county in which the tenancy is located. Service shall be made by:
- handing a copy to the defendant;
- serving at the dwelling upon a person of suitable age and discretion;
The original summons (with proof of service made thereupon) shall be returned to the court. Service must be made no less than five (5) days before the hearing. R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-10(a).
- ACTIONS FOR REASONS OTHER THAN NON-PAYMENT OF RENT
If the action is one for a reason other than non-payment of rent, the service of the summons is made pursuant to Rule 4 of the District Court Rules of Civil Procedure. R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-10(b)(2).
- SUING AN OUT-OF-STATE LANDLORD
If the tenant is suing the landlord, and the landlord is:
- not a resident of Rhode Island; or,
- a corporation not authorized to do business in this state
then the landlord may be served in the following ways:
- by serving an agent for process if one has been designated. Such designation will be on file in the office of the secretary of state.
- If no designation has been made, process may be made on the secretary of state. However, such service is not effective until a copy of the process has been mailed to the defendant at his last reasonably ascertainable address by certified or registered mail. R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-10(c).
- THE EXECUTION - (FORCIBLE EVICTION)
The execution in landlord-tenant cases is the eviction. The following procedure must be followed with caution! An execution may be issued (if no appeal is taken) on the sixth (6th) day following judgment. It must be executed within five (5) days. If not, the constable shall appear before the court on the next session to show cause why the execution has not been made. Reasonable costs incurred by the constable in carrying out the execution may be added to the execution by the clerk on approval of the court (upon presentment of evidence of such costs). R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-48.
If it is necessary for the constable to remove the belongings of the tenant, the costs are charged to the tenant. R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-50 provides:
Payment of moving costs required. ñ Whenever the personal property of any tenant is removed from the premises the tenant occupies by mandate of an execution from the court of competent jurisdiction, the tenant shall pay the entire amount of the cost of moving the personal property and any prepaid storage charges to the sheriff, constable, or other person who lawfully caused the personal property to be so moved before the personal property can be released to the tenant by the person, firm, partnership, company, association, or corporation having lawful possession of the property. Further, the sheriff, constable, or other person who lawfully caused the personal property to be so moved shall prepare and deliver a release in writing stating that the costs of moving and any prepaid storage charges have been paid in full and authorizing the release of the personal property to the tenant. This amount shall be paid to the landlord as reimbursement for the costs of removing the personal property.
- GEOGRAPHICAL LIMITATIONS ON SERVICE
R.I. Gen. Laws § 9-5-10 provides:
provided, that writs of arrest and writs, summonses, and executions issued by a district court in actions for possession of tenements or estates let or held at will or by sufferance shall be directed to the sheriff or the sheriff's deputies in the county in which the action shall be brought and service thereof shall be made by the sheriff or the sheriff's deputies;
See also R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-10:
The plaintiff shall deliver the original summons and a copy thereof, together with a copy of the complaint and a blank answer form to the sheriff or any constable of the county in which the appropriate court is located.
See also R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-48:
Executions shall be issued only to the sheriff or constable of the county where the premises are situated.
B. NON-RESIDENTIAL EVICTIONS
- NON-PAYMENT OF RENT
If the rent is in arrears, a landlord of non-residential premises may institute an action for trespass and ejectment in the division of the court where the premises are situated. R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18.1-9(b)(1). Unless otherwise indicated, actions for non-payment of rent in non-residential cases follow the normal procedure for civil matters. R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18.1-9(a). However,
For cause shown the justice of the district court may issue a special order providing for the method of service of process upon the defendant. R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18.1-9(b)(2).
An answer must be filed within seven (7) days of service R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18.1-9(b)(3). The hearing is on the next day following the seventh day. Id.
Executions are issued to a constable of the county where the premises are situated. R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18.1-9(b)(6). The mandates of the execution must be performed within twenty (20) days. Id. Cost of the execution, including reasonable moving costs incurred by the constable, may be added to the execution by the clerk upon approval of the court upon presentation of evidence. R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18.1-9(b)(7).
- OTHER REASONS
There is no specific statutory procedure for eviction for reasons other than non-payment of rent.