Residential Eviction Process for Non-Payment in Rhode Island – Step 2 of 6: Initiating an Eviction Lawsuit

Filing an eviction lawsuit is necessary if a tenant does not respond to the landlord’s 5-day demand letter.

If a tenant does not pay rent or move out in response to a landlord’s 5-day demand letter, an eviction case will need to be filed. In general, starting an eviction lawsuit for non-payment of rent involves drafting a complaint and filing it with the district court. Under the law, a hearing will be scheduled within 9 days after the case is filed.

Drafting the Complaint for Eviction

The complaint for eviction is fairly straightforward. A sample complaint for eviction for non-payment of rent can be found here. The complaint should establish the basic elements of the landlord/tenant relationship, discuss the amount of rent owed, and ask the court to award a judgment for possession and money damages.

More specifically, the complaint for eviction should establish that:

  • the person evicting–usually the landlord, but sometimes the property manager–has authority to evict,
  • the amount of the rent that is more than 15 days past due,
  • a 5-day demand letter was mailed to the tenant,
  • the tenant did not pay all of the rent demanded, and
  • due to the tenant’s failure to pay rent, the landlord is entitled to a judgment for possession of the property and money damages.

Filing the Complaint for Eviction

Once the eviction complaint has been drafted, it must be filed in the appropriate division of the district court. An attorney can file the complaint online. If a landlord does not have an attorney, the complaint should be taken to the court clerk for filing. In both cases, the complaint will have to be submitted with a filing fee. The court clerk will process the complaint, assign a case number, schedule a hearing, and issue a summons that will need to be given to the tenant along with the complaint and other required documents.

The Court will Schedule a Hearing 9 Days After the Complaint is Filed

In eviction cases involving non-payment of rent, the hearing date is scheduled 9 days after the complaint is filed. If the 9th date is a weekend or holiday, the hearing will be scheduled for the next court day after the 9th day.

Once an eviction case has been filed, the complaint, summons, and other required court documents must be served on the tenant. This is the third step in the eviction process for non-payment of rent in Rhode Island.

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