COVID-19 and Tenant Legal Support

Please see our June 1st blog post for the most up-to-date information on the District Court Eviction Protocol and accessing housing assistance.

Update, May 18th: Per Rhode Island Supreme Court Executive Order 2020-12 of May 15, evictions cannot be filed until after June 1, 2020.  When the courts do reopen in June, it is likely to be a phased reopening. The Center for Justice, along with other housing advocates, continues to support the establishment of an Eviction Diversion program in the court which would connect landlords and tenants and provide rental assistance to prevent evictions.

Update, April 8th: The Rhode Island Attorney General has issued guidance for law enforcement officials regarding landlord-tenant disputes, emphasizing that self-help evictions, in which landlords circumvent the court process to try to force tenants out, including preventing tenants from accessing the property, throwing belongings out, and/or cutting off utilities, are unlawful. He asked all Rhode Island Chiefs of Police to enforce criminal laws around illegal landlord activity, including trespass and vandalism (destruction of tenant property).

The Rhode Island Supreme Court also extended the eviction moratorium until May 17, 2020.

Update, March 26th: Homes RI, the Center for Justice, and other community partners have published FAQs, in English and Spanish, on tenant rights and responsibilities in housing and utilities during the moratorium. Please review these first if you have any questions about your rights.

For background on this work and the Homes RI FAQs, see the Providence Business News interview with Center for Justice Executive Director Jennifer Wood.

Per Rhode Island Supreme Court Executive Order 2020-09, all non-emergency matters—including judicial eviction proceedings—are on hold until at least May 17, 2020. However, courts are not staying removal of tenants for whom a judge has already issued a writ of execution.

This means that new evictions are not being processed, and in-process evictions are on hold, but where a court has already ordered that an eviction can proceed, sheriffs are allowed to remove tenants.

Landlords might also try to perform “self-help evictions,” such as changing locks on tenants or throwing out their possessions without court approval. In most cases, these evictions are still illegal.

If you are a tenant facing eviction and you are in private housing (that is, not Section 8 or public housing), you can call the Center for Justice at 401-491-1101. If you are in Section 8 or public housing, please call Rhode Island Legal Services at 401-274-2652 (Providence office) or 401-846-2264 (Newport office).

For more information, view the Rhode Island Legal Services Housing Law Bulletin on COVID-19.