Residential Eviction Process for Non-Payment in Rhode Island – Step 5 of 6: Judgment

The judgment indicates which party won the case and what they are legally entitled to.

Following the trial, the judge will will weigh the evidence presented by the landlord and tenant and make a decision about who should prevail. The judge’s decision is memorialized in writing in a judgment. If the judgment is in favor of the landlord, it will usually contain a provision stating that the landlord is entitled to possession of the rental unit and a certain amount of back rent. If the judgment is in favor of the tenant, it will typically state that the tenant is entitled to remain in possession of the rental unit and the amount of rent that will need to be paid to do so.

The landlord or tenant may appeal an adverse judgment within 5 days.

If the landlord or tenant is unhappy with the judgment, an appeal may be filed. However, the time for filing the appeal is just 5 days. The law imposes an automatic stay against enforcement of the district court judgment during that period. That means that no action could be taken to enforce the judgment during that time. For example, if the judgment was in favor of the landlord, the landlord cannot force the tenant to move or pay money during the appeal period.

An appeal from a judgment entered in an eviction case entitles the party filing the appeal to a de novo trial in the Rhode Island Superior Court. De novo simply means to begin anew. In other words, the party filing the appeal is entitled to a brand new trial. The appeal should be filed with the district court clerk, and a court fee must be paid. The amount of the fee depends on whether the landlord or the tenant is filing the appeal. Once the appeal is filed, the district court will send the court file to the superior court where a new trial will be scheduled.

A tenant appealing an eviction judgment for non-payment must pay rent while the appeal is pending.

Landlords and tenants should be aware of a very important rule pertaining to appeals of an eviction judgment for non-payment. If the tenant appeals, the tenant must pay rent in full and on time while the appeal is pending. If the tenant fails to pay rent according to this rule, the appeal will probably be dismissed, depriving the tenant of another opportunity to present their case.

It is worthwhile to illustrate the rule to pay rent pending appeal through an example.

Let’s say a landlord has a tenant whose rent is $1,000 per month and is due on the first day of each month. The tenant falls behind on rent and the landlord, after sending a 5-day demand letter, files an eviction case. The case happens to be filed on the 11th day of the month. Nine days later, on the 20th day of the month, the landlord and tenant appear in district court for their trial. After the trial, the judge finds that the landlord should win her case and enters a judgment in her favor. Five days later, on the 25th day of the month, the tenant files an appeal, and a new trial in the superior court is scheduled for the 8th day of the following month. On the 1st, while the appeal is still pending (i.e. the new trial will not occur until the 8th), the tenant must pay the landlord the $1,000 rent that comes due for that month. If the tenant does not pay that amount on that date, the landlord can ask to have the appeal dismissed, and the tenant will no longer have an opportunity for a new trial.

Once all appeals have been exhausted, and there is a final judgment in the landlord’s favor, the landlord must execute on the judgment to remove the tenant and collect back rent. Execution is the sixth step in the eviction process for non-payment of rent in Rhode Island.

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