PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island’s attorney general says police can file criminal charges against landlords who wrongfully evict tenants during the coronavirus pandemic.
The attorney general’s office says it has received a growing number of complaints about landlords who are forcing tenants to leave, barring entry to properties or cutting off utilities without court permission. Landlords are required to get a court order to evict tenants, but the state has suspended most court proceedings until April 17, effectively barring new evictions.
Attorney General Peter Neronha said that while the situation may be frustrating for landlords who are owed money, it “does not mean that they can simply ignore the law and take matters into their own hands.”
In one case, a landlord cut the power to a Providence apartment where a woman and her 7-year-old daughter were living, Neronha said. While the woman was away looking for another apartment, the landlord changed the locks and threw out her belongings, he said.
The attorney general’s office told police that landlords can be charged with trespassing if they enter a tenant’s property without permission, and they can be charged with vandalism if a tenant’s belongings are damaged while being removed. The guidance applies to residential and commercial landlords.
Tenants facing eviction should continue making rent payments and seek legal guidance, the office said.
Five more Rhode Islanders died from coronavirus and 220 new cases were logged, Gov. Gina Raimondo said Wednesday.
That brings the death toll in the state to 35, with a total of 1,450 cases. Raimondo said 143 people were hospitalized, up from 123 a day earlier.
The Rhode Island National Guard is no longer going door to door to inform visitors from New York that they must quarantine for 14 days, city officials in Newport said.
The Newport Daily News reports that City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson Jr. announced the update during a meeting with city council members on Tuesday. He said the National Guard suspended the visits after authorities knocked on more than 2,000 doors in Newport and left quarantine notices.
Boats arriving in Newport Harbor are still being given notices about the quarantine order, Nicholson said.
State officials in Rhode Island had been cracking down on visiting New Yorkers in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo previously called the effort “reactionary” and unconstitutional.