A New Chapter for Tenants: Understanding Rhode Island's Eviction Case Sealing Law

eviction notice

As of January 1, 2024, Rhode Island has enacted a groundbreaking law that allows tenants to seal eviction cases. This progressive legislation is designed to protect tenants from the long-term impacts of eviction records and can be seen as a significant step in the fight for housing justice.

Background on Rhode Island Bill 2023-S 0912, Now R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-60

Rhode Island Bill 2023-S 0912, sponsored by Sen. Tiara Mack, introduced the provision for sealing court files in residential eviction proceedings upon motion filing. Upon passage, Bill 2023-S 0912 became R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-60. The enacted legislation will serve as a countermeasure to the detrimental effects of eviction records on individuals' future housing prospects. The new law will shield tenants from the potential fallout of past evictions. It will also keep these records private, preventing them from influencing future housing opportunities adversely. With the passage of this legislation, lawmakers acknowledged the damage an eviction can inflict on a tenant's credit score and future housing options, often leading to an unstable living situation or even homelessness. In mitigating these effects, the new law will offer affected individuals the chance to regain stability and receive a fresh start. While this law provides a pathway for tenants to recover from the impacts of eviction, it doesn't exempt them from their obligations or debts.

Criteria and Rules Regarding Eviction Record Sealing

According to RI General Laws §§ 34-18-35, 34-18-36, and 34-18-38, once a case has been resolved and at least a month has passed since the appeal period ended, any party involved in the eviction record can request to have it sealed, provided they meet the criteria outlined below:

  • The original case was dismissed due to a motion to dismiss.
  • The case was resolved through an agreement, and all parties have fulfilled their obligations.
  • Any financial penalty against the party asking to seal the record has been fully paid.
  • The case was dismissed due to no action taken over five years.
  • All parties involved were informed about the request to seal the records.
  • The party requesting to seal the record hasn't made any such request in the past five years.

Essentially, these rules allow parties involved in eviction cases to have their records sealed according to these specific guidelines. This legislation offers privacy and peace of mind to renters who could be negatively impacted by having their records accessed by future landlords.

The Impact on Landlords and Tenants

The new law significantly impacts landlords' access to potential tenants' previous eviction records, providing a fresh start for tenants with past evictions. Courts can now seal these records upon motion, however, tenants with an eviction record must apply using the appropriate form. Not all eviction cases are applicable, so contact a landlord and tenant attorney for assistance. RI General Law § 34-18-60 is a considerable stride toward housing justice in Rhode Island, and legislators hope the new legislation will tackle housing instability and reduce homelessness, though its long-term impact remains to be seen.

For more information on the new law, RI Gen. Laws § 34-18-60, you can find it here. If you need help from our landlord and tenant attorney, call (888) 701-0919 to schedule a consultation today.

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