Eviction Procedures in Louisiana

By Ralph Heibutzki

Evictions in Louisiana typically follow a 5 to 10 day timeline mandated by its Code of Civil Procedure. Most evictions are handled in Justice of the Peace Courts. Otherwise, a landlord must file suit in the county or parish where the property is located. Tenants hoping to fight eviction must appear in court, mount an affirmative defense and post a bond to appeal unfavorable rulings.

Notice Timelines

Article 4701 of Louisiana's civil code requires five days' notice for evictions involving failure to move out after a lease expires, nonpayment of rent, or violations of lease terms. Ten days' notice is mandated for month-to-month tenants. Otherwise, landlords can sue for immediate eviction if the lease doesn't specify a fixed period or a notice requirement.

Initial Steps

Eviction proceedings begin by serving a notice to vacate, which the landlord need not give personally. Posting notice on the tenant's property is sufficient under Article 4703. If the tenant doesn't leave within the timeline, the landlord can serve papers to evict. This request is known as a rule of possession. The tenant must then file a verified answer, or formal response, with the court.

Tip

Ask the court to waive its fees if you can't afford them. Request an application to proceed in forma pauperis. If a judge approves it, you can file key documents -- like your answer -- without having to pay advance fees.

Trial Process

The court will schedule an eviction trial within three days after papers are served. If the tenant doesn't appear, the landlord receives a default judgment. The tenant must move out within 24 hours. If he doesn't, the court can issue a warrant to remove him and his belongings. Otherwise, both sides may present their case to a judge, whose decision typically follows the testimony. If the judge rules for the landlord, she then cab sign an eviction order. If the tenant wins, he should request a written judgment that bars the eviction.

Affirmative Defenses: Failure to Notify

Failure to follow timelines is an affirmative defense against eviction, which should be raised at the start of any hearing. For example, the landlord might have sought a rule of possession before the notice to vacate period ended, or accepted rent after filing either paper. This defense also is useful in 10-day notice evictions. A judge then can dismiss the lawsuit and force the landlord to start all over again.

Affirmative Defenses: Lease and Rent Cases

If the landlord claims that the tenant broke a rule, study the lease to determine whether it supports the landlord's interpretation. If not, the tenant should ask the judge to dismiss the case, especially when the alleged rule violation is minor. For nonpayment of rent cases, the tenant should focus on the underlying circumstances. Possible defenses include refusal to accept offers of rent, use of "repair and deduct" rules to prompt repairs, or proof of payment, supported by canceled checks or receipts. If no legitimate defense exists, the tenant should move before an eviction order takes effect and makes it more difficult to find a new apartment.

Appeal Rights

A tenant who loses may appeal to a parish or district court, but only if he's filed an answer before the trial. He doesn't have to move until the process ends. This step also requires filing a bond -- usually for several hundred dollars -- to protect landlords from damages. Unless a court chooses to waive them, the tenant also must pay fees for securing trial transcripts and witness subpoenas, which is why appeals of residential evictions rarely occur, says eviction lawyer David H. Knecht, Jr. of the Gibson Group.

Warning

Offer to keep paying rent during your appeal. If the landlord declines, note the refusal in writing, and ask the court to accept your rent. Otherwise, you could miss a payment date. Your landlord could then file a new eviction, no matter how your appeal is going.

About the Author

Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in the "All Music Guide," "Goldmine," "Guitar Player" and "Vintage Guitar." He is also the author of "Unfinished Business: The Life & Times Of Danny Gatton," and holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University.

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