What Happens at the Court Hearing? Information About Rhode Island Landlord-Tenant Law & Evictions

The eviction court hearing is the final, most important part of the eviction process. In an eviction for non-payment of rent, the eviction hearing will occur on the ninth day after filing the complaint. For all other types of evictions, the eviction hearing will only occur after a Motion to Assign has been filed with the court.

On the day of the hearing you should make every effort to arrive on time. The hearing will begin promptly at 9:00AM. If you are even a few minutes tardy, you may miss the call of your case. Be sure to find the appropriate court room, as there are many different courts in session on any given day. If you do not know the appropriate court, you should locate one of the court clerks and ask. If you are represented by counsel, your attorney will likely arrange a time and place to meet in the morning.

Before you enter the courtroom, be certain to turn off all cell phones and pagers! If your cell phone/pager rings during the hearing, you will likely be asked to leave the courtroom. Occasionally, the bailiff will confiscate the offending device and hold it until the end of the day.

The court session will begin once the Judge enters the courtroom. The first order of business is the call of the calendar. During the call of the calendar, the judge, or the clerk, will read the name of each case scheduled to be heard on that day. When you hear the name of you case, you should stand up and announce your presence in the courtroom. Typically, a simple “here” or “Defendant/Plaintiff” is sufficient. If you are represented by an attorney, your attorney will handle this portion of the hearing.

If only one of the parties, either the Plaintiff or the Defendant, attends the hearing, the case will be called, “Ready Formal.” If you are the Defendant and this occurs, the case will be dismissed. If you are the Plaintiff and this occurs, you will be able to proceed against the Defendant on an oral proof of claim. You will likely be successful, as there is no Defendant to assert a defense, as long as you have satisfied the legal formalities of the eviction process.

If both parties attend the hearing, the case will be called, “Ready Contest.” Once the Judge has completed the call of the calendar, the Judge will allow the parties to exit the courtroom in order to begin settlement discussions. If the parties are able to reach a settlement, the parties should prepare a stipulation and present it to the bailiff. (Blank stipulations can be found at the front of the courtroom.) If the parties cannot reach a settlement, then the parties should reenter the courtroom for a full hearing.

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