Residential Eviction Process for Non-Payment in Rhode Island – Step 1 of 6: Sending the 5-Day Demand Letter

The content and timing of the 5-day demand letter are governed by law.

It is crucial that the demand substantially complies with the form set by law. If it does not, it will delay the eviction process. A sample demand letter can be found here, but it’s important to address the specific format and content of the demand first. In general:

The 5-day demand must only demand rent that is more than 15 days past due.

The 5-day demand must only demand rent. It should not include anything other than rent, such as late fees, utility expenses, and the like. With regard to timing, the rent must be more than 15 days past due. If rent is due on the first of the month, the soonest a demand could be sent is on the 16th of the month.

The 5-day demand letter must inform the tenant that an eviction action may be filed if back rent is not paid within 5 days from the date the letter was sent.

A tenant can prevent an eviction case from being filed by paying all of the past due rent. Although the demand specifies that a tenant has to pay the past due rent within 5 days of the demand being mailed, the tenant actually can cure at any time prior to an eviction action being filed. Once an eviction has been filed, the tenant can still cure by paying the past due rent and court costs at the eviction hearing. The only exception to this occurs if the tenant has received a separate 5-day demand within the 6 month period preceding the eviction action.

The 5-day demand letter must advise the tenant that any defenses to paying rent (such as conditions issues with the rental unit) could be presented at an eviction hearing.

If an eviction hearing is filed, a tenant has a right to defend themselves. That defense may include legal justifications for not paying rent. The demand must inform a tenant of this right.

The 5-day demand letter must contain a statement certifying how and when the demand was sent.

The demand letter need only be sent by first class mail. There is no separate requirement that the demand be personally served on a tenant, sent by certified mail, or posted to the tenant’s door. The certification should be signed by the landlord or the person sending the demand on the landlord’s behalf.

The second step in the process for evicting a tenant who is not paying rent is initiating an eviction lawsuit.

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