In Louisiana, a tenant who pays rent in full and on time has the right to occupy a rental unit that is habitable without threat of eviction. The tenant has a limited right to make repairs, but generally does not have the right to withhold rent. If the residential lease has a month-to-month renewal clause, the tenant has the right to remain in the unit on a continual basis.
Right to Notice Regarding Eviction Process
A tenant may breach the lease agreement by failing to pay rent or by engaging in acts that are not allowed under the lease, like subletting without the landlord's permission. Tenants have the right to receive a written notice to vacate from the landlord delivered in a period between five days and 30 days before the landlord begins eviction proceedings due to a lease violation.
A lease may contain a waiver of the notice to vacate. If the lease contains such a waiver, the tenant does not have the right to receive notice before the landlord begins eviction proceedings.
Eviction Court Hearing
An eviction trial typically takes place three days after the tenant has been served with notice. The tenant has the right and also the responsibility to appear in court to state why they should not have to vacate the property. If the court rules in favor of the landlord, the tenant has the right to remain in the property for 24 hours after the ruling.
After that period, the tenant must vacate the property. A tenant has the right to have an attorney to represent them in an eviction proceeding, but that is not required.
Tenant's Right to Appeal an Eviction
A tenant who loses an eviction trial has the right to file a suspensive appeal. This suspends the court order to have the tenant vacate the property, and the tenant does not need to leave the property until the appeal has been resolved.
A tenant must file a suspensive appeal within 24 hours from when the court renders the judgment of eviction. The tenant must also post an appeal bond within 24 hours of the judgment.
The amount of the bond must be adequate to protect the landlord against any damage they could suffer as the result of the appeal. The tenant is still required to pay rent due every month on time during the appeal process.
Landlord’s Seizure of Property
Louisiana rental laws provide that when a tenant loses an eviction trial, they must pay all of the rent that they owe up until that point. If they do not, the landlord can file a civil suit against them. The landlord can have the tenant’s property on the premises seized, including furniture in the unit or vehicles in the parking lot of the complex.
The landlord can do this prior to the court’s decision, pending the outcome of the lawsuit. If the tenant loses, they can be held liable for the expenses of the lawsuit. The landlord may garnish the tenant’s wages and sell their property for the amount that the tenant owes.
Addressing Wrongful Evictions
A tenant has the right to be free from a wrongful eviction. A wrongful eviction is an eviction that a landlord undertakes in violation of the lease or local, state or federal laws. For example, if a tenant paid their rent and abided by the terms of the lease, and the landlord evicted them in the middle of the lease term, this would be a wrongful eviction.
If a landlord evicted a tenant because of the tenant’s race or religion, this would also be a wrongful eviction. A landlord who takes an illegal action against a tenant is liable to damages to the tenant.
Withholding Rent Payments
Generally, a tenant does not have the right to withhold rent payments. There can be an exception if the tenant lives in subsidized housing, and the reasons for needed repairs threaten their safety or health. A tenant in this situation should seek legal advice before withholding rent.
Louisiana landlord-tenant laws mandate that a landlord provide a tenant with a unit that is habitable, or safe in which to live. A landlord must also make necessary repairs. A city or parish may have additional ordinances that require a unit to meet certain standards. Typically, a tenant may not sue to force a landlord to make repairs.
Tenant's Rights to Repairs
When a tenant wants repairs made, they should request in writing that the landlord fix the issue. If the landlord does not fix the problem, the tenant may:
- Report the unsafe conditions to code enforcement authorities, like a parish housing department. A tenant of subsidized housing should report the issue to the overseeing agency, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
- File a lawsuit for damages against the landlord. This is different from a lawsuit that requests the court to issue an order to mandate the landlord to make repairs. This type of lawsuit asks for compensation for the damages the tenant has already suffered.
- Give intent of notice to vacate.
- Cancel the lease early.
A tenant must continue to pay rent as long as they remain in the unit. When a repair is minor, a tenant has the right to fix the problem and deduct the reasonable cost from their next month’s rent.
A tenant who wants to make repairs should first ask permission to do so in writing. If the landlord agrees or does not make the necessary repairs, the tenant should again write the landlord with an estimate for the cost of repairs.
Repair and Deduct Cost from Rent
The tenant should tell the landlord that if the landlord refuses to make the repairs, the tenant will do so and deduct the cost from the next month’s rent. The tenant should then share a copy of the final repair bill with the landlord.
A tenant should retain the receipt for supplies and equipment necessary to fix the problem. They 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 make repairs that cost less than future rents owed.
Cosigning a Lease
A tenant has the right to cosign a lease with a roommate. Either or both tenants can be held financially responsible for the entire rent, damages or any other breach of the rental agreement. If one roommate moves out or causes damage to the apartment, the remaining tenant can be held liable for all of the damages.
Late Rent Payments
A tenant does not have the right to pay rent late. Yet they have the right not to be charged a late fee unless the lease agreement states that the landlord can charge one.
If there is no written lease, the landlord cannot charge a late fee unless the parties agree upon it orally. Louisiana law does not set a specific amount for late fees, and a tenant may contest an unreasonably high late fee.
COVID-19 Protections Are Over
The eviction moratorium for the COVID-19 pandemic ended July 31, 2021. A tenant no longer has the right to remain in a unit without paying rent. They can be evicted for failing to pay rent or otherwise breaching the lease agreement.
The U.S. Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance program is a federal program to assist households unable to pay rent because of restrictions relating to the coronavirus during 2020 and 2021.
How to Report a Landlord
A tenant has the right to submit a complaint about a landlord by writing to HUD or the Louisiana Department of Justice. They should submit a complaint form or write a letter that contains:
- Tenant's name and address.
- Landlord's name and address.
- Address of the rental unit.
- Date the incident occurred.
- Short description of what took place.
A tenant may also visit HUD’s Title VIII Complaint Process webpage to file a complaint online. A tenant can learn more about how to report a landlord in Louisiana or about fair housing laws by contacting the Louisiana Attorney General’s office at 800-273-5718.
Protection from Discrimination
The federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 disallow discrimination due to race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status like being a single parent, or national origin in the rental and advertising of housing.
The Louisiana Open Housing Act is found at Louisiana Revised Statutes Section 51:2601 and are substantially equivalent to the federal Fair Housing Act. The Louisiana Department of Justice may receive complaints or be referred by HUD.
Louisiana rental law provides that if a lease does not state the duration in the agreement, the lease is presumed to be on a month-to-month basis. The tenant or the landlord has the right to terminate or change the terms of the lease with written notice within 10 days before the end of the month.
Another type of lease is a fixed-term lease, for which the length of the lease is agreed upon by the landlord and the tenant. A fixed-term lease typically lasts a year, but it can be for any time period set out in the agreement not to exceed 99 years.
Month-to-month tenants have rights, just as tenants who are parties to fixed-term leases. Most leases require written notice for termination at least 30 days before the current lease’s expiration.
Renewal Clauses in Leases
Some leases contain automatic renewal clauses. These leases renew for another term equal to the original term. For example, if a tenant has a one-year lease that expires on April 30, the lease will automatically renew for another year with the same terms.
A month-to-month lease may contain an automatic month-to-month renewal clause. A tenant or landlord has the right to prevent automatic renewal by giving written notice of their intent to vacate. Any alteration to the terms of a lease, such as a change in the amount of rent, must be made with the notice provided for in the lease.
If the tenant remains in the unit for one week after the lease expires and there is no renewal clause, the lease will automatically renew on a month-to-month basis.
Special Rules Regarding Leases
If the landlord or the tenant dies, this does not dissolve the lease agreement. The tenancy is continued – both the landlord and the tenant’s respective heirs remain bound by the rental agreement.
The destruction of the leased unit without fault of either the landlord or the tenant does not terminate the lease obligations. This situation is complicated by the legal requirement for the landlord to provide a habitable unit.
If the landlord cannot provide a habitable unit, the landlord and tenant should engage in mediation to find an adequate resolution to the situation.
Lease Termination Upon Sale of Rental Property
If the landlord sells the property during the lease term, the new owner may change the lease terms or evict the tenant. A tenant can prevent this by recording the lease in the parish in which the property sits. A tenant may have an action against a landlord for any loss sustained as a result of the sale.
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.