Rhode Island District Court order sets out procedures for tenants to avoid eviction

A FEDERAL order that will protect tenants from eviction this year is being criticized by some apartment owners./ PBN PHOTO MARY MACDONALD

PROVIDENCE The Rhode Island District Court has issued an administrative order that explains how it will carry out a federal order that can prohibit residential evictions for the remainder of the year.

Under the state court order, issued Friday, tenants must file a declaration with their landlord that states they have been impacted by COVID-19, and are seeking eviction protection under the federal order.

Once they do that, through an affidavit, landlords are prohibited from evicting them for nonpayment of rent through Dec. 31.

The order follows an executive order signed by President Donald Trump, which inspired an order from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week. The CDC, using its authority, issued an order temporarily halting evictions, citing the need to control the spread of the COVID-19 viral pandemic.

- Advertisement -

The tenants, according to the federal order, have to have been impacted by the pandemic through a loss of income, and if evicted would likely face homelessness.

According to the Rhode Island court, the federal order states that landlords, once notified that a tenant is filing a declaration under the order, “shall not evict a person or pursue an eviction or possessory action from a residential property.”

The executive order applies only to non payment of rent, and doesn’t cover other grounds for eviction.

Although tenants are protected under the order once they file the declaration, they aren’t relieved of their obligation to pay rent. The protection only applies to their eviction, according to the district court order.

Once the declaration is made, all actions pending in the court for eviction cases are paused, but not dismissed.

Keith Fernandes, president of the Providence Apartment Association, an association that includes about 400 landlords, said Monday night the court should have gone further to require some kind of confirmation that the tenants actually have been impacted.

Otherwise, he said, tenants may use this as rationale for not paying their rent. This will propel the pain of the pandemic onto small landlords. Most of the landlords in the association own one to three buildings, he said.

Now, under the state order, tenants only have to say that they have been impacted, he said.

Moreover, although the order states that landlords are still owed the rent, landlords know that once a tenant gets a few months behind, they are unlikely to pay the mounting debt.

“It’s so broad and widespread, it makes no sense,” he said.

Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at macdonald@pbn.com.

No posts to display