On November 3rd, 2020, the Rhode Island District Court issued an administrative order changing the eviction protocol for tenants who file a CDC declaration for a moratorium of eviction.

Are you at risk of eviction due to non-payment of rent?

  1. Have you applied to financial assistance programs for help paying your rent?

In Rhode Island, financial assistance may be available from the United Way and community action agencies. For help, you can call 211. Apply on-line to Safe Harbor at: https://www.uwri.org/safe-harbor-housing-program-tenant-application/

  1. Do you earn less than $99,000 per year? ($198,000 for a joint tax return)
  1. Are you unable to pay your rent because of a loss of income, wages, or hours of work, or payment of extraordinary medical expenses?
  1. Are you using your best efforts to make the largest payment possible under the circumstances?
  1. If you are evicted, would you: become homeless, move into a homeless shelter, move into an overcrowded home with friends or family?

Tenants who can truthfully answer “yes” to each of the above questions can stop their landlords from evicting them by signing this form and giving a copy to their landlord.

Once you give the signed form to your landlord, even though they can file an eviction and get a court hearing, you cannot be moved out of your home until after January 1.  

If you get a notice to go to court YOU MUST GO TO COURT to protect your rights to remain after January 1.  THERE ARE FUNDS AVAILABLE TO HELP PAY YOUR BACK RENT – CALL United Way at 211.

Tenants may report landlords who violate the moratorium to the police, Attorney General, and Department of Justice. Landlords may report tenants believed to have lied on the sworn declaration to the police, Attorney General, and Department of Justice. 

Free legal help for low-income tenants is available from:

Rhode Island Legal Services: 401-274-2652

The Rhode Island Center for Justice: 401-491-1101

Changes to tenant protections

A.  Old CDC Protections

On September 3, 2020, in response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (“CDC”) issuance of its Order entitled The Temporary Halt of Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of COVID 19, the District Court issued Administrative Order 2020-06 addressing the process for pending and new non-payment eviction matters. See CFJ’s blog post on the Order here.

That Order from the District Court stated, in substance, that tenants could halt non-payment eviction cases by signing the CDC’s form Declaration (and providing it to their landlord or the landlord’s attorney).  If a tenant presented a Declaration prior to the start of a non-payment eviction case, the Declaration prohibited even the filing of a non-payment case against that tenant.  On November 3, 2020, the District Court amended Administrative Order 2020-06 (with Administrative Order 2020-07).  Key changes are summarized below.  

B.  Reduced Protections Effective November 3, 2020  

Effective November 3, 2020, new eviction filings for non-payment of rent in which a CDC Declaration is submitted may be heard in the normal course on a date to be provided by the Clerk’s Office.  This means the case can be filed and will go forward even if the tenant submits a Declaration.  So — even if a CDC Declaration has been submitted — tenants must show up for court dates or a default judgment may be entered against the tenant.   

While judgments may enter, no judgment will be enforceable until the expiration of the CDC Order or until further Order of the Court.  Similarly, Motions to Enforce Judgment will not be heard by the Court on any non-payment of rent case in which a Declaration has been filed, until the CDC Order expires or until further Order of the Court.  

The Amended Order does not appear to impact non-payment cases that were filed before November 3, 2020.  So if a tenant’s non-payment case has already been scheduled for early next year because the tenant submitted a Declaration, it will be heard on that date (not earlier).  If tenants are not sure whether their cases are going forward or not, call the District Court clerk’s office to inquire.  

Administrative Order 2020-07 can be found HERE and should be referenced for a full understanding of its contents.