Whether it’s to leave the premises or to enter the premises, notices govern the legal communication between the tenant and landlord and, therefore, are very important to follow closely.

Before we address specific notice types, Rhode Island has two important notes regarding the sending and receiving of notices. Primarily, R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-22.3 states that a landlord who is not a resident of Rhode Island must designate and continuously maintain an agent upon whom service may be made of any process, notice, or demand required or permitted by law to be served. The agent must be a resident of Rhode Island. In addition, R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-57, the Providence and Warwick Absentee Landlord Enforcement Act, states that all persons, corporations, organizations, associations, or other legal entities owning and leasing property in the cities of Providence or Warwick shall register their names, home addresses, including zip codes, and telephone numbers with the city clerk in the city where such property is located.

Notice to quit and rent changes

Prior to the end of the tenancy, the tenant should provide 30 days’ notice that he or she will be vacating the premises when the agreement period ends. If the tenant fails to provide such notice and if the landlord consents, then the tenancy becomes month-to-month, in which there is the same notice period to quit from either party: 30 days.

If the tenant continues possession of the premises without the landlord’s consent, he or she becomes a holdover tenant. Upon the day after the expiration of the agreement period, and not before, the landlord may begin an eviction action. The action shall be commenced by filing a “Complaint for Eviction for Reason Other Than for Nonpayment of Rent” which shall be filed in the appropriate court according to the form provided in R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-56(e). The landlord may recover an amount no more than three months’ rent or threefold the actual damages sustained by the landlord, whichever is greater.

During the agreement period, the landlord may not change the rental rate or any other portion of the lease agreement without providing 30 days’ notice prior to the end of the tenancy. For month-to-month tenants above the age of 62, the landlord must provide 60 days’ notice before changing the rent.

Delay of occupancy

If the landlord fails to deliver possession to the tenant, rent abates until possession is delivered and tenant may do either of the following:

  • Terminate the agreement upon at least 5 days’ written notice to the landlord, and, upon termination, the landlord shall return all prepaid rent and security; or
  • Demand performance of the agreement by the landlord and, if the tenant elects, bring action for possession of the premises against the landlord.

If a person’s failure to deliver possession is willful and not in good faith, the aggrieved party may recover from that person an amount not more than three months’ periodic rent or three times the actual damages sustained, whichever is greater, and reasonable attorney’s fees.

Landlord's right to access

The landlord may request access to the premises to inspect the premises, make necessary or agreed repairs and alterations, supply services, or show the premises to prospective purchasers or tenants. In doing so, except in an emergency or if the tenant has been absent for 7 days or more, the landlord must give at least 2 days’ notice prior to entering the premises at a reasonable time. The landlord has no other right to access the premises except pursuant to a court order, to inspect a tenant’s failure to maintain the premises, or if the tenant has abandoned and surrendered the premises.

Duty to notify tenant of violation

If the landlord is cited by a state or local minimum housing code enforcement agency for a housing code violation, he or she must deliver a copy of the violation notice to each tenant whose building is affected by the violation, unless the landlord remedies the violation(s) within 30 days. The landlord, prior to entering into a lease agreement, must notify the prospective tenant of any outstanding minimum housing code violations that exist in the building that the lease concerns.