In Louisiana, the eviction of a residential tenant begins with a landlord’s termination of the lease or rental agreement. The landlord must have a legal cause, or good reason, for this action. Legal cause may not include illegal reasons, such as discrimination based on race or religion.
Primary Reasons for Eviction
The primary reasons for eviction in Louisiana are:
- Nonpayment of rent.
- Violation of the lease terms, such as using the apartment to conduct illegal activities. A landlord does not need to provide the tenant with the opportunity to correct or stop such behavior.
- End of the lease or no existing lease. When a tenant stays in a unit after the rental period has ended, the landlord is required to give notice before evicting them.
First Steps in a Louisiana Eviction Process
A landlord typically evicts a tenant and regains possession of the unit because the tenant has breached the lease or rental agreement, often by failing to pay rent on time. When the tenant fails to take a necessary action to comply, the landlord must deliver a written notice to vacate to the tenant.
Rent is considered late when it is one day past the due date stated in the lease agreement. A notice to vacate should allow the tenant not less than five days from the date of delivery to vacate the premises. If the lease has a definite term, notice to vacate may be given not more than 30 days before expiration of the term.
If the tenant is not home when the landlord gives notice, the landlord may post the notice on the door of the leased unit. If the tenant fails to vacate within five days of notice, the landlord may begin an eviction lawsuit. The landlord should file a petition with the justice of the peace or city court.
Waiver of Notice to Vacate in Lease Agreement
The tenant should check the written lease to see if it contains a waiver of notice to vacate. If there is such a waiver, the landlord can immediately institute eviction proceedings without giving notice.
Eviction Trial in Louisiana
The eviction case will be heard three days after the landlord has served the tenant with notice. The tenant is required to come to court and explain why they should not be ordered to leave the premises. The tenant must respond to the official notice to appear in court within three days.
A tenant can hire an attorney to represent them at the eviction hearing, but it is not necessary. The tenant should prepare their reasons as to why they should not be evicted before going to court. If the tenant does not appear at the court hearing, or if the judge finds in favor of the landlord, the court will render an immediate judgment of eviction that orders the tenant to leave the premises.
If the Court Orders an Eviction
After the court has rendered the judgment of eviction, the tenant must pay all of the rent due on time and vacate the premises within 24 hours. If the tenant does not do these things, and/or damages the premises or violates the lease in any other way, the landlord can file a civil suit against the tenant.
The landlord can have the tenant’s property left on the premises, including vehicles in storage units or on the parking lot of the complex, seized and held pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
The landlord can sue the tenant for all rent remaining due for the full term of the lease if the tenant violated the lease. If the tenant loses the lawsuit, they can be held liable for all expenses of the lawsuit. The landlord can garnish the tenant’s wages and sell their property to satisfy the judgment.
Appeal a Judgment of Eviction
A tenant who appeared at trial and argued a defense can file a suspensive appeal. A suspensive appeal means that the eviction does not become effective until after the appeal procedure has ended. A tenant must file a suspensive appeal within 24 hours from the date and time that the court renders the judgment of eviction.
The tenant is required to raise an affirmative defense that entitles them to retain possession of the premises. The trial court will determine the amount of the appeal bond. The amount must be sufficient to protect the landlord against all damages they would sustain as a result of the appeal.
Posting an Appeal Bond
The tenant must post the appeal bond within the same 24-hour period that they file the appeal. A suspensive appeal prevents actual eviction pending the outcome of the appeal.
If the tenant is successful in the appeal, this does not suspend or erase rental payments that are due during the appeal process. The tenant may also later be held responsible for damages caused to the rented unit.
Devolutive Appeal of Eviction
A tenant may also request a devolutive appeal of an eviction. A devolutive appeal is an appeal that allows the party who received the judgment, like the landlord, to collect on the judgment while the appeals court decides the issues. A devolutive appeal will not suspend or prevent actual eviction pending the outcome of the appeal.
An appeal does not mean the tenant gets a new trial in the trial court or the appellate court. Instead, the appellate court reviews the trial record, including a transcript of testimony. The appellate court determines if the trial judge made errors of law in conducting the trial. If the appellate court does not reverse the trial judge’s decision, it may decide the case in its entirety.
Alternatively, the appellate court may send back the case to city court. The remand will result in a retrial consistent with the appellate court’s ruling.
Court Costs if the Appeal Fails
If the appellate court affirms, or upholds, the trial court’s judgment, the party who appealed the ruling will ordinarily be responsible for court costs associated with the appeal. That party will also be responsible for fines and other amounts owed stemming from the trial judge’s decision.
What Is Wrongful Eviction?
A landlord who takes action against a tenant without a court ruling in their favor for an order of eviction may be liable for damages for wrongful eviction. Actions that could pose issues include locking the tenant out of the rental property, putting the tenant’s possession on the street or taking possession of the tenants property in lieu of rent.
The plaintiff, typically the tenant, bears the burden of proof for all elements of damages. If the tenant does not provide enough detail about their loss, this could prevent them from winning the suit.
Eviction and the COVID-19 Pandemic
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extended the residential eviction moratorium against eviction for nonpayment of rent through July 31, 2021. The point of the moratorium was to keep people safe and in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The eviction moratorium expired after that point. A landlord is now able to evict a tenant in Louisiana if the tenant has breached the lease agreement.
Eviction Due to Discrimination
The Louisiana Equal Housing Opportunity Act prohibits discrimination in housing because of a person’s race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability or familial status, such as their being a single parent.
A person who has experienced an eviction due to illegal discrimination should call the Louisiana Department of Justice’s Fair Housing Hotline at 800-273-5718. Alternatively, they can visit the Louisiana Attorney General's website.
Eviction for Late Rent
A landlord does not have to accept late rent unless they agree to do so by habit or in writing. If the landlord agrees to accept late rent, they may institute a grace period for acceptance. The grace period is typically listed in the lease. If the tenant pays rent after the grace period, this can constitute a breach of the lease agreement.
If the landlord has a habit of accepting late rent after the grace period, the tenant can state this as a defense in an action for nonpayment of rent. A landlord can charge a late fee for late rent, but subsidized housing programs may limit the amount of the late fee.
Landlord’s Refusal of Rent
When a tenant tries to pay rent in full, but a landlord refuses to accept it, the tenant’s actions are a defense to an eviction. The tenant should be prepared to show proof that they tried to pay rent in full and on time. Good documents include a dated money order, check, post office receipt, text message or email to the landlord regarding the full payment of rent.
Eviction and Repairs Under State Law
Louisiana law requires a landlord to provide a unit to a tenant that is habitable, safe to live in and to make necessary repairs. A city or parish may have additional ordinances that require a unit to meet certain housing standards. A tenant typically is not allowed to withhold rent or to sue to force a landlord to make repairs.
The first step for a tenant who wants repairs made is to request that the landlord fix the issue. It is a good idea to make such a request in writing. A text or email qualifies as a writing. A tenant is required to allow a landlord or a landlord’s agent, such as maintenance staff for an apartment complex, entrance to the unit to make repairs.
Options if Repairs not Done
If the landlord does not make repairs, the tenant’s options include:
- Report unsafe conditions to code enforcement authorities, such as a parish housing or health department. A tenant of subsidized housing should report the concern to the overseeing agency, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
- File a lawsuit for damages against the landlord.
- Give notice of intent to vacate.
- Cancel the lease early.
Tenant at Fault for Damage
A tenant can be held responsible for damages to the property if they or a guest were at fault for the event that caused the damage. A tenant is required to pay rent while they remain in the unit. A tenant of subsidized housing may have a right to withhold rent if the problems in the unit threaten their safety or health. They should consult an attorney about this matter.
Deducting Repair Costs from Rent
When a repair is minor, a tenant may be allowed to fix the problem themselves and deduct the reasonable cost from their next month’s rent. The tenant should retain receipts for supplies and equipment to fix the damages.
The tenant should be able to fix the problem for less than their monthly rent. If the tenant has a lease that is longer than a month-to-month lease, they may be allowed to make repairs at a cost that is less than the future rents owed under the tenancy.
Obtain Permission for Repairs
A tenant who wants to make repairs themselves should ask permission to do so in writing. If the landlord agrees or does not make the repairs, the tenant should write them again with an estimate for the cost for repairs. The tenant should inform the landlord that if they do not make the repairs, they will do so and deduct the cost from the next month’s rent.
After the work is done, the tenant should provide the landlord with a copy of the final bill. The tenant will need to prove that the repairs were necessary and the repair cost was reasonable.
- City of Monroe: Rights and Responsibilities of the Landlord and Tenant
- Baton Rouge City Court: Appeals Fact Sheet
- Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure: Article 4735, Appeal, bond
- Louisiana Attorney General: Homepage
- Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure: Article 4701, Termination of Lease
- Louisiana Civil Code: Article 2704, Nonpayment of rent
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.