Eviction Laws and Tenant Rights in Louisiana
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Landlords in Louisiana can’t just change the locks, toss your belongings out on the front yard, or shut down essential utilities. A landlord must follow the eviction process in order to have a tenant evicted for any reason. Here's an overview of what this means for tenants in Louisiana.
Written by Upsolve Team.
Updated December 14, 2021
Under Louisiana law, renters and tenants have rights to their property. They also have rights in the eviction process.
This article explains the basics of Louisiana’s eviction laws and tenant’s rights under those laws. You might find this article useful if you’re a renter in Louisiana and your landlord is threatening eviction, if you’re behind on rent, or if your lease is about to expire.
What Is Eviction?
Eviction is the legal process of removing a renter from a property. Eviction in Louisiana requires notice and a court order. Landlords can’t engage in self-help eviction, which is when the landlord tries to remove a tenant without a court order. Self-help eviction — also called illegal eviction or illegal lockout — might involve changing the locks, boarding up the door and windows, or shutting off utilities.
Louisiana’s eviction process is generally the same for all residential renters, but how they’re notified of the eviction will depend on the type of lease and the reason for eviction. In some cases, the eviction may be filed in a city court or district court.
Who Can Be Evicted in Louisiana?
The eviction process applies to tenants who have a landlord-tenant relationship with the property owner. In Louisiana, a landlord-tenant relationship is usually created when the tenant and landlord both sign a lease agreement. In the lease agreement, also called a rental agreement, the renter agrees to pay rent to live in the rental property.
Often, the tenant will have other people living with them who aren’t on the lease. Generally, people living with a tenant can be evicted also, even if they’re not on the lease.
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Why Can Someone Be Evicted in Louisiana?
There are three main reasons why someone can be evicted in Louisiana:
Nonpayment of rent or late rent.
Violation of the lease agreement.
The lease term ends, which is called lease expiration.
Eviction With Cause vs. Without Cause
In Louisiana, a landlord can evict a tenant with cause or without cause. Eviction with cause means that the landlord has a legal reason to remove the tenant from the property. To have cause, the landlord has to show that the tenant violated a term of the lease agreement, which may be rent-related or not rent-related.
Eviction without cause is when the landlord doesn’t have a reason to remove the tenant. They just don’t want the tenant to live there anymore. To evict a tenant without cause, the landlord has to wait for the lease term to end.
How the landlord needs to give notice to the tenant depends on whether the eviction is with or without cause, among other factors.
Late, Short, or Behind on Rent?
A landlord can evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent, which includes paying rent late, being short on rent, or falling behind on rent. Your lease agreement may include a grace period, which gives you extra time to pay your rent after the due date. It doesn’t matter how short a tenant is on rent. If you haven’t paid the full rent, you’re at risk of being evicted.
Accepting Late Rent
The landlord can refuse to accept late rent. But if they were accepting late rent in the past before deciding to not accept it anymore, the tenant may use the fact that they had been accepted late rent as a defense to eviction.
Lease Expiration or Termination
In Louisiana, a lease can either expire or be terminated by the landlord. In both cases, the landlord can evict the tenant because the tenant no longer has the right to stay in the property. The tenant can be evicted regardless of whether they’re up to date on rental payments.
When a lease expires, it means that the lease has come to its natural end. Landlords can evict a tenant without cause once a lease expires by deciding not to renew the lease. Although notice is generally not required when a fixed-term lease expires, they are always required for month-to-month tenancies.
When a landlord terminates a lease, they’re ending the lease before it was originally supposed to end. To terminate a lease, a landlord has to have a legal reason. That is, the landlord has to show that there was a violation of the lease agreement. If the landlord terminates the lease, they will file an eviction with cause. Evictions with cause require the landlord to send the tenant an eviction notice.
The Louisiana Eviction Process
The eviction process in Louisiana is governed by state law. Rules governing eviction can be found in Title XI of the civil code. Although the process is relatively similar once a lawsuit is filed, the notice requirements vary depending on the type of lease and the reason for the eviction.
Evictions are usually filed in courts called justice of the peace courts. These courts are Louisiana's small claims court system.
What does a landlord have to do to begin an eviction?
Landlords must follow certain procedures governed by Louisiana law to legally evict a tenant from their rental property.
Notice to Vacate
To start an eviction in Louisiana, the landlord must first send the tenant a written notice called a Notice to Vacate. Notice may not be required if the tenant agreed to waive their right to notice in a written lease agreement. This waiver will usually be titled "waiver of notice" in the agreement.
A Louisiana eviction notice includes the date of the notice, the address of the rental property, the number of days the tenant has to leave, and the reason for the eviction. The reason may be a breach of the lease agreement, nonpayment or late rent, or lease expiration.
When notice is required for a fixed-term lease, the landlord will generally give the tenant five days to vacate. Once the notice period is over, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit.
10 Day Notice for Month-to-Month Tenants
If the tenant has a month-to-month lease, the Notice to Vacate must give the tenant at least 10 days to move out. Tenants can’t waive their right to notice in a month-to-month tenancy. The landlord can personally give the notice to the tenant, post it on the door of the rental property (if the tenant can’t be located), or send it using certified U.S. mail with a return receipt.
If the tenant doesn’t leave the property by the date listed in the Notice to Vacate, the landlord will proceed with an eviction lawsuit. An eviction lawsuit in Louisiana can be called a Rule for Possession, Rule to Evict, or a Petition for Eviction. These lawsuits are usually filed in a justice of the peace court.
What happens once the eviction action is filed with the court?
Once the landlord files the eviction action, the court will issue a summons. This document indicates the court date, time, and location where the eviction proceedings will take place. In Louisiana, this summons is called a Rule to Show Cause and it orders the tenant to appear in court.
Both the Rule to Evict filed by the landlord and the Rule to Show Cause must then be given to the tenant through a process called service or service of process.
The landlord serves the tenant.
The process of notifying the tenant of the eviction lawsuit is called service. In an eviction lawsuit in Louisiana, landlords are required to deliver the necessary court documents through personal service or domiciliary service:
Personal service is when the court documents are given directly to the tenant. This can either be done by the sheriff or a private party.
Domiciliary service is when the court documents are given to a person residing in the rental property who is old enough and responsible enough to give the documents to the tenant.
The tenant answers the lawsuit.
Once the landlord serves the tenant with the court documents, including the Rule to Evict and the Rule to Show Cause, the tenant will reply by filing an answer. An answer is the tenant’s first opportunity to present their defenses to the court. Answers must be submitted to the court in writing and also include a notarized affidavit. An affidavit is a document that a person signs swearing to the court that their statements are true.
Tenants MUST attend the hearing.
The Rule to Evict should include the date and time of the eviction hearing. It’s extremely important to attend this hearing. If you don’t, the court will likely issue a default judgment against you. Through default judgment, the landlord wins the eviction case. This allows the landlord to move forward with removing you from the property.
In Louisiana, this hearing usually serves as the eviction trial. At the trial, the landlord will first explain why they filed the eviction action. Both parties will have the opportunity to provide evidence and call witnesses. Both parties will also be able to question the other party’s witnesses.
Telling Your Side of the Story: Affirmative Defenses and Counterclaims
If you’re facing eviction, you have the right to present arguments to the court explaining why you shouldn’t be evicted. These arguments, which may be defenses and affirmative defenses should be included in the answer and at the hearing. Tenants can also file counterclaims, which need to be served on the landlord.
Defenses and Affirmative Defenses
A defense is when you deny an allegation the landlord makes. For example, if the landlord alleges that you paid rent late, a normal defense would be to argue that you didn’t pay rent late.
An affirmative defense is when you argue that even if the landlord’s allegation is true, you have a justification for it. For example, if the landlord alleges you didn’t pay rent in full, an affirmative defense would be that you didn’t pay rent because you used the missing rent to make necessary repairs (as long as that amount is reasonable).
You can also make counterclaims against the landlord. A counterclaim is a claim made against the landlord that is related to the eviction. Unlike a defense, a counterclaim asks that the court provide you with some relief, like payment. For example, a counterclaim may allege that the landlord broke the law during the eviction process and caused you damages. The counterclaim would ask that the landlord pays for those damages.
Tenants need to file the counterclaim with the court, pay a court cost called a filing fee, and then serve the landlord with the counterclaim.
What Happens After an Eviction Trial?
At the trial, the judge will enter a judgment. The judgment is the court’s determination of whether the eviction should move forward. Usually, the judge will issue the judgment the same day as the trial.
If the judge issues a judgment in the landlord’s favor, they’ll sign an order to evict the tenant from the property. The order may require you to leave the property as soon as 24 hours after the judgment is issued.
If you haven’t left by the time and date listed on the order, the landlord will execute the eviction. Execution is the process of physically removing you from the property. The landlord must request law enforcement to come and execute the eviction. Landlords can never physically remove a tenant from a rental property themselves.
Right To Appeal
You have the right to appeal the judge’s decision. If you choose to appeal, you must do so within 24 hours of the judgment being issued. In addition to filing the appeal, you’ll need to pay the court an appeal bond. This bond is usually the equivalent of one month’s rent.
Practical Tips for Tenants Facing Eviction in Louisiana
The eviction process can be very stressful. There are many documents and items to keep track of throughout the process. Below are some times to help tenants facing eviction in Louisiana:
Gather evidence that supports your defenses or counterclaims.
Gather all documents, text messages, photos, videos, and any other evidence supporting any defenses you want to present to the court. If you’re alleging that the rental property’s condition is unlivable, consider contacting the municipal building inspector and asking them to inspect the property. Once the inspection is completed, the inspector will issue a report that you can submit to the court as evidence.
Contact the court if you can’t attend the hearing.
If it’s impossible for you to attend the hearing, contact the court clerk and ask for a continuance. A continuance reschedules the hearing to a later date. If you don’t attend the hearing and don’t ask for a continuance, the court will likely issue a default judgment against you. This allows the landlord to remove you from the property as soon as 24 hours after the judgment has been issued.
Keep detailed records.
Keep detailed records of any money you pay or anything you do in the eviction process. For example, if you cure your default by catching up on your rent at some point during this process, be careful about when you pay the rent and who you pay it to. Keep records of when and how you make payments so that your landlord can’t lie about the payments in court.
Communicate proactively with the landlord if there is a conflict or dispute. Communicating early on can help you prevent a lawsuit. Even if lawsuits are later dismissed, the mere filing of one can impact your ability to secure future rental housing. If you communicate before there’s a need for a lawsuit, you may be able to negotiate an agreement.
If the landlord does file an eviction action against you, you can still negotiate a settlement with them to have the lawsuit dismissed. A settlement may be an agreement to continue the lease if rent is paid by a certain date or an agreement to end the lease and move out by a certain date so long as the lawsuit is dismissed.
Use community resources.
There are many landlord-tenant resources available in Louisiana, below is a list of resources available to Louisiana residents.
Keep agreements in writing.
You may be able to negotiate a settlement agreement with the landlord. If you do, make sure that any agreement you make with the landlord is in writing and signed by both you and the landlord.
Tenant Resources in Louisiana
Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS): SLLS is a legal aid organization that provides legal assistance and legal advice to low-income residents of Southeast Louisiana. An SLLS tenant rights lawyer may also be able to represent you in eviction court. SLLS can also provide information about COVID-19 related housing issues, including eviction moratoriums and emergency rental assistance.
LouisianaLawHelp.org Housing Page: This website provides legal information related to eviction, repairs, security deposits, and other landlord-tenant issues.
New Orleans Legal Assistance: This office is the New Orleans branch of the SLLS. This office can help residents located in New Orleans with housing issues
Louisiana Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) Page: ERAP is a program created to assist those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit this page if you need emergency rental assistance.
HUD.gov's Coronavirus Resource Page for Renters: The Department of Housing and Urban Development's FAQ page provides information related to COVID-19 for renters.