Residential Eviction Process for Non-Payment in Rhode Island – Step 3 of 6: Serving the Required Court Documents

The landlord must notify the tenant of the eviction lawsuit and hearing date by serving the required court documents.

Service is the process for notifying the tenant that an eviction case has been filed, that a hearing date has been scheduled, and that the tenant must appear in court or respond to the lawsuit.

The law strictly governs when and how to accomplish service.

The Rhode Island Landlord and Tenant Act, as well as the court’s rules of procedure, govern how and when a tenant must be served with the eviction papers. Adhering to the service rules is critical to avoiding mistakes that could lead to serious delays with the eviction.

In general, the documents that must be served on the tenant include:

  • the summons generated by the court clerk,
  • the eviction complaint,
  • a notice in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Cambodian informing the tenant that he or she has a right to request an interpreter (these notices are available on the Rhode Island court website),
  • and a blank answer (also available of the Rhode Island court website) so that the tenant could respond to the lawsuit.

The required court documents must be mailed to the tenant on the same day the case is filed.

A copy of the court papers needs to be sent by first class mail to the tenant on the same day the summons is issued. The summons includes a space to certify that the mailing occurred. This will need to be completed and filed with the court after the tenant has also been served by a constable or sheriff.

The documents must also be delivered to the tenant by a constable or sheriff at least 5 days before the scheduled eviction hearing.

A second copy of the court papers should be given to a constable or sheriff so that it can be delivered to the tenant in person, usually for a fee of about $45. Delivery must occur at least 5 days before the scheduled hearing date. For eviction cases involving non-payment of rent, the packet can be posted on the tenant’s door, left with someone of suitable age and discretion who lives with the tenant, or given to the tenant personally. The summons includes a section for the constable or sheriff to certify how the packet was served.

Proof that the tenant was served needs to be filed with the court.

Once service is complete, the summons should show when and how it was accomplished. Again, this will include the certification that the documents were mailed to the tenant, and the constable’s or sheriff’s notation that they were delivered to the tenant.

An eviction trial will be held after the required court documents have been served on the tenant. Trial is the fourth step in the eviction process for non-payment of rent in Rhode Island.

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