How to Prepare for an Eviction Lawsuit

When a landlord’s tenants are no longer paying rent or are conducting themselves in a manner that violates their rental agreement, eviction may be necessary. If you are a landlord and find yourself in this situation, here is how you should prepare for an eviction lawsuit. 

Don’t Do it on Your Own

As with all states, Rhode Island prohibits landlords from evicting tenants themselves. Instead, you must follow state laws. In order to remove your tenant, there is a process through which you must go; it doesn’t matter if you believe doing it yourself would yield faster results. You should refrain from doing any of the following:

  • Removing any of your tenant’s belongings;
  • Removing the tenant by force;
  • Changing the locks;
  • Harassing them in an effort to get them to leave; and
  • Turning off any essential utilities.

A Legal Reason is Required

Just because you are the landlord, it doesn’t give you the right to remove a tenant solely because you dislike them. In order to evict someone, you must have a valid legal reason. Such reasons include:

  • Violating the terms of the lease;
  • Failing to pay rent on time or altogether;
  • Causing property damage to the rental property;
  • Causing health or safety hazards; and
  • Breaking any noise, occupancy, or health ordinances. 

If you have one of these reasons it is still required that you have proof to demonstrate it. It’s in your best interest to document everything. This also greatly helps should your case move to a hearing.

Provide the Tenant a Formal Eviction Notice

The eviction process can begin once you have one of the above reasons and you have tangible proof of it. Once this occurs, you will want to provide the tenant with a formal eviction notice, This is a simple document that provides your tenant with all information they need to know: they must fix the issue at hand or face eviction. 

In Rhode Island, the amount of notice that a tenant must receive is dependent upon the reasoning for their eviction. For instance, if they are being evicted for not paying their rent, the rent must first be more than 15 days late, and then the tenant has five days to pay in full. If a tenant is being evicted for non-compliance with the lease, they have 20 days to remedy the issue or be evicted. It is important to note that for a month-to-month lease, a landlord may evict a tenant by giving them a 30-day notice and does not have to have any specific reason – so long as they do not have a discriminatory one.

Be sure to place the notice on their front door although you can also send it to them through certified mail with a return receipt request through USPS in order to verify that they did, in fact, receive the notice. 

After sending or placing the eviction notice, the tenant has the ability to fix the issues stated. However, if they fail to do so and the deadline has passed, you would then file a Summons and Complaint for eviction with the courts. 

The Hearing

You will then have an eviction hearing, or trial, before a judge. Both parties will present evidence but the landlord must prove his or her allegations by a preponderance of the evidence. Some important documents to bring with you to the hearing include:

  • The lease agreement
  • A copy of the eviction notice that the tenant received
  • Proof of when the tenant received the eviction notice
  • Records of all payments
  • Records of all communications between you and the tenant (including texts, calls, and emails)
  • Any bounced checks from the tenant

It’s always better to bring more documents than you end up needing than missing any documents that you may need.

PALUMBO LAW Helps Those in Rhode Island Facing an Eviction Lawsuit

There’s no doubt that evicting a tenant can be an extremely stressful and overwhelming time. You want to be sure that you do everything correctly the first time around. That’s where a real estate attorney can help. 

At PALUMBO LAW, our experienced Rhode Island real estate lawyers can help to walk you through the eviction process. We have deep experience working with both landlords and tenants. If you are planning on evicting a tenant, or if have already had your eviction hearing and have been denied on a technicality, we can help. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call us today!