The following information is taken from The Landlord-Tenant Handbook prepared by the R.I. Department of Administration, Division of Planning. The handbook is a general reference on landlord-tenant relationships based on Rhode Island General Law, Chapter 34-18, entitled the "Residential Landlord and Tenant Act," effective since January 1,1987. (http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE34/34-18/INDEX.HTM)
Failure to Maintain
A tenant must keep his or her rental unit up to certain minimum maintenance standards as previously listed under "TENANT RESPONSIBILITES" and itemized in detail under section 24 of the "Act." If a health and safety problem arises for which the tenant is responsible and no corrective action is taken, the landlord can make a written demand that the repairs, replacement, or cleaning be done within 20 days. (It must be done immediately if it is an emergency situation.) If it is not done as specified, the landlord will have the legal right to enter the rental unit, have the necessary repairs done, and charge the tenant for it as part of the next rental payment due. If the rental agreement has terminated, the bill can be presented for immediate payment.
Eviction for Failure to Pay Rent
If the tenant fails to pay the rent within 15 days of the time it is normally due, the landlord can send a written notice (similar to section 56a of the "Act") telling the tenant the specific amount overdue must be paid in five days of the notice mailing or the rental agreement will end and the landlord will go to court to evict the tenant.
If the landlord doesn't receive the overdue rent within the allotted time, he or she may file a section 56d "Complaint for Eviction for Nonpayment of Rent" form in the local district court.
Copies of the eviction complaint, at R.I.G.L. 34-18 section 56g court summons and a section 56j tenant answer form are then given by the court clerk to the landlord to be sent by first-class mail to the tenant. Copies are also served on the tenant by a court sheriff. If there is a reason the eviction shouldn't take place, the answer form should be filled out and copies should be sent to the landlord/lawyer and the court before the hearing. The tenant should attend the hearing and ask to be heard to provide his or her defense as stated in the answer form. The eviction may also be stopped by paying the back rent, up to or at the hearing. This option to pay after a court eviction action has been started is not allowed to tenants who have received other five-day late notices within the prior six months.
The court won't allow an eviction for non-payment if there is evidence an attempt to make full payment was legally made but refused by the landlord. Therefore, tenants should keep returned checks, cash, etc., to show an attempt was made to pay, if in fact, this was true.