The Louisiana eviction process begins with service of the appropriate Notice to Vacate. Landlords must adhere to state law and abide by any particular lawful provisions in the rental agreement that may set forth the conditions for evicting a tenant.
Self-help measures by a landlord are not within the Louisiana eviction process and can subject a landlord to considerable damages to be paid to the tenant. For example, denying a tenant access to the property, turning off services such as heat, water and electricity, removing the tenant’s personal belongings or threatening the tenant can lead to a civil action for wrongful eviction by the tenant.
The majority of evictions are for nonpayment of rent. After any grace period has expired and the rent remains unpaid, the landlord must initiate the process by serving a Louisiana eviction notice giving the tenant 5 days to pay the rent due or vacate the premises. The notice must specify the amount due and that the lease will terminate 5 days after the tenant has received the notice or legal action will ensue to expel the tenant.
The 5-day Louisiana eviction notice is also used for noncompliance with provisions of the lease other than for nonpayment of rent. Noncompliance of a rental lease could include damaging the property, keeping the property in an unsanitary condition, allowing unapproved tenants and pets to live in the unit, or creating a nuisance. The notice must contain a statement of grounds or a reason for the eviction or reference to the lease provision that has been violated.
For periodic or month-to-month leases, the landlord need only give at least a 10-Day Notice to Vacate, so long as the notice is given a minimum of 10-days before the end of the rental period. No reason need be given for the eviction.
Service of Notice
Service of the Louisiana eviction notice can be done by personal service on the tenant in the presence of at least one witness. If the tenant is absent, the notice can be affixed to the unit’s door and again be witnessed by at least one other person. An alternative is to send the notice by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, to show proof of service.
The notice period does not include weekends or holidays.
Waiver of Notice to Evict
Many residential rental leases have a waiver of notice to the tenant so that once the lease expires for any reason, the landlord may immediately file a Rule of Possession to evict the tenant if he or she holds over.
Rule for Possession/Rule to Show Cause
Once the notice period has passed and the tenant has failed to comply with the terms to prevent the lease’s termination, the landlord must file a Rule for Possession with the Parish Court or the Justice of the Peace Court where the property is located. This is an action for possession only. The landlord must file a separate action to collect any rent owed or other damages.
After presenting proof of service of the appropriate notice or waiver of notice, the landlord can file the Rule for Possession, or eviction case. The citation or rule to show cause containing the date, location and time of a hearing is served on the tenant by the Sheriff or Constable. The hearing date is no earlier than 3 days after service of the citation or order to show cause.
The citation or rule to show cause can be served by tacking, or having it affixed to the unit’s door, and should probably be mailed as well.
A tenant who is served with a citation or rule to show cause must file a verified answer pleading an affirmative defense before the trial date. An affirmative defense is one in which the landlord’s petition would be defeated on the merits even if all the allegations are proved.
There are no jury trials in a Louisiana eviction hearing. The landlord has the burden of proof regarding the following elements:
- That a relation of landlord and tenant existed between the parties (evidence of the lease)
- That the lease has expired or terminated for a particular reason
- That due notice to vacate has been served or has been waived in some cases
- That the court has jurisdiction to hear the case
Defenses to a Louisiana Eviction Case
A Louisiana tenant has a number of affirmative defenses in a Rule of Possession hearing including the following:
- The landlord accepted the rent at some point or accepted partial rent and has waived his or her right to continue the action.
- The landlord violated the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment.
- Retaliatory eviction: the tenant is being evicted for having complained about the premises to a governmental agency or for having joined a tenants’ rights union.
- The complaint was filed before the notice period expired.
- The notice to vacate was defective.
- The notice was not properly served.
- Unlawful housing discrimination–the eviction is primarily based on the tenant’s religion, gender, national origin, race, family status or disability.
Warrant for Possession
If the tenant fails to appear or the landlord proves his or her case, the court must immediately render judgment for the landlord, which gives the tenant only 24-hours to vacate or appeal the judgment.
After 24-hours and the tenant has not vacated the property, the landlord must return to court and ask the clerk for a Warrant of Possession authorizing the Sheriff or Constable to enter the property and remove the tenant and all of his or her belongings.