In Louisiana, as with any other state, if rent is paid in a timely manner in exchange for inhabiting property, a landlord-tenant relationship is established (even without a written lease), and with this relationship comes rights and responsibilities for both parties.
Basic Landlord Responsibilities
Keep the rental fit to live in. The landlord is required to provide housing that is habitable and to make repairs in a timely manner when required.
Quiet enjoyment. The landlord is required not to disturb the tenant’s rights to peacefully and reasonably use their rented space.
Basic Tenant Responsibilities
Pay rent on time. If the tenant does not pay rent in full and in a timely manner, the landlord has the right to take action to end the tenancy.
Cover excessive damages. Tenants are responsible to cover the costs of damages to the property beyond normal “wear and tear”.
With that said, Louisiana varies from other states on additional rights and responsibilities for both landlords and tenants. Louisiana law even varies on both the interpretation of the above rights and the rules on handling violations.
Warranty of Habitability in Louisiana
Landlord Responsibilities. Generally speaking, Louisiana’s landlord-tenant laws are vague when it comes to assigning specific responsibilities to landlords. This includes the state’s warranty of habitability, which only requires landlords to maintain the following amenities if they are already present in a rented unit:
- HVAC system
- Electric system (including wiring, lighting, and outlets)
- Sanitation facilities
- Trash cans
In all instances, landlords are not responsible for repairing damages that can be documented as being primarily caused by a tenant’s actions or negligence. However, when a repair is requested and properly warranted, a Louisiana landlord is only required to make that repair in a “reasonable” amount of time. The precise definition of this language must be set forth in an applicable lease agreement or else a landlord may not be required to make such an essential repair in a timely manner at all.
Tenant Responsibilities. Tenants in Louisiana are required to keep their rented space clean and make any repairs deemed necessary by their landlord. While Louisiana’s laws are not specific regarding how long a tenant has to act upon this kind of clean-up or repair request from their landlord, it is assumed that they must also make repairs in a “timely” manner. Failing to do so may result in eviction or fines (in the form of security deposit deductions) from the landlord.
Louisiana’s current laws do allow tenants to take one form of “alternative action” against their landlord when those landlords fail to act upon a necessary repair request. If they so desire, an affected tenant may set about to make the repair on their own and then deduct the associated cost from the following month’s rent payment.
Evictions in Louisiana
Because of the broad language incorporated into Louisiana’s landlord-tenant laws, landlords operating in this state can feasibly evict their tenant for any reason. However, these are among the most common justifications landlords in this state are likely to use:
- Nonpayment of rent – Louisiana tenants are expected to pay on time, as outlined in their lease and in accordance with any relevant grace periods. If they fail to do so, their landlord may serve them a 5-Day Notice to Quit that sets forth how much rent must be paid in the following 5 day period. If the terms of that notice are not met, then the landlord may proceed to formalize the eviction by filing a Rule for Possession with a local court or justice of the peace.
- Violation of lease terms – Standard lease terms violations are treated like rent nonpayment violations in Louisiana. As such, when a violation is documented by a landlord, they may provide proof of the same by issuing a 5-Day Notice to Quit to the relevant tenant. If the tenant’s behavior or actions are not cured within that five day window, the landlord may push for formal eviction by filing a Rule for Possession with a local court or justice of the peace.
- Illegal Acts – Louisiana’s laws give landlords broad leverage to determine if an “illegal act” precipitated by a tenant constitutes grounds for eviction. Due to a lack of regulation on this front, this may even include illegal actions that occur off-property. Regardless of where the act in question occurs, a landlord is required to issue a 5-Day Notice to Quit that requires the landlord to move out swiftly or face eviction.
Evictions without a lease. Tenants in Louisiana who choose to rent from a landlord without signing onto a lease agreement are not usually provided the same housing protections as their leased counterparts. That being said, these tenants are entitled to receive a 10-Day Notice to Quit when their landlord intends to end their month-to-month rent agreement. Fixed-term renters, on the other hand, are not entitled to any advance notice due to the established nature of their expected move out date.
Illegal Evictions. Louisiana only outlaws evictions that are explicitly discriminatory, in accordance with the federal Fair Housing Act. Moreover, protected class characteristics including race, gender, religion, national origin, disability status, and/or familial status cannot be used as a primary reason for evicting a tenant.
Louisiana does not currently maintain any laws that expressly forbid retaliatory evictions. As such, tenants in this state may be able to be evicted for reporting a landlord’s health or safety code violation as well as exercise their right to join a tenant union.
Security Deposits in Louisiana
While Louisiana’s landlord-tenant laws are generally broad, they do still place these following statutory limitations on the collection, maintenance, and redistribution of security deposits:
- Standard Limit / Maximum Amount – Louisiana does not currently maintain a statutory limit on how much a landlord can charge for a security deposit. As such, landlords operating in the state appear to be free to set their own security deposit rates, including those fee-like deposits paid to allow for a non-service pet.
- Interest and Maintenance – Louisiana landlords are not required to maintain their security deposits in any particular manner, including the utilization of a specialized bank account or escrow. Landlords further do not need to collect interest on their security deposits and, should they choose to do so anyway, do not need to pay out interest on a held security deposit at any point during a lease.
- Time Limit for Return – Starting from the day a lease is terminated, a landlord has 1 month to return any and all remaining security deposit funds. Should deductions be deemed necessary, a Louisiana landlord must also send along an itemized list describing those deductions in the same 1 month window.
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – Failure to return a security deposit (in whole or in part) or failing to provide the required itemized deduction list (when warranted) can result in penalties for a Louisiana landlord. These include a $300 fine or twice the value of the original security deposit (whichever is greater).
- Allowable Deductions – Louisiana landlords are allowed to make deductions from a tenant’s security deposit for any of the following reasons:
- Pay for repairs that exceed normal wear and tear
- Cover unpaid rent
- Cover utilities bills for which a tenant has defaulted
- Other lease term breaches that lead to a financial loss for the landlord
Lease Termination in Louisiana
Notice Requirements. Tenants in Louisiana who are signed into fixed end-date leases are not required to provide notice of their imminent termination (so long as that termination does not occur prior to the established end date). However, tenants who utilized leases of differing lengths without a fixed end date must abide by these following written notice requirements:
- Week-to-Week Lease – 5 days of advance notice
- Month-to-Month Lease – 10 days of advance notice
- Yearly Lease without an End Date – At least 30 days of advance notice before the start of the subsequent rental period (usually a new year)
Legally Breaking a Lease Early. Louisiana allows tenants to break their lease through a number of legally-protected courses of action, including through the utilization of a pre-established early termination clause within a written lease agreement. However, several other justifications for early termination may be justified under Louisiana law, including the following:
- Active Military Duty – Federal law allows service members who are relocating due to deployment or permanent change of station to terminate their lease as early as 30 days from the next rent period.
- Unit is Uninhabitable – Louisiana landlords are still required to abide by all state and local health and safety codes, even if the state’s landlord-tenant laws relating to habitability are a bit broad. As such, a tenant who documents a health and/or safety code violation caused by their landlord’s actions or negligence may be able to use it to declare themselves “constructively evicted.” This, in turn, may allow the affected tenant to break off their lease by bringing legal action against their landlord.
- Landlord Harassment – Louisiana does not maintain statewide statutes regarding when a landlord may or may not enter an occupied unit. As such, landlords and tenants are responsible for working out how much notice must be given for a landlord to legally enter, as well as for what reasons they may enter with permission. If these standards (which should be agreed to in writing) are routinely broken, an affected tenant may be able to justify an immediate lease termination based upon their landlord’s invasion of their privacy.
Depending on the language of their specific lease agreement, a Louisiana tenant who successfully terminates their lease early may still remain on the hook to pay rent until the conclusion of their old leasing period. However, this obligation may be passed on if a new tenant can be found to take over the lease. Legal precedent in Louisiana holds that a landlord must assist a former tenant in these efforts as part of their duty to “mitigate damages” relating to their early departure from tenancy.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in Louisiana
Rent control & increases. Louisiana is one of many US states that entirely preempts local jurisdictions from instituting rent control policies or statutes. As such, landlords across the state are able to charge as much as they see fit for rent. Along the same lines, Louisiana lacks a statutory requirement for landlords to justify or even give advance notice of an impending rent increase. As such, landlords operating in this state may raise or lower rent whenever they desire (including over the course of an existing leasing period).
Rent related fees. Louisiana does not appear to place hardly any limitations on the value or the number of fees which may be charged from a landlord to their tenant. Specifically, this state does not cap when or how much a landlord can charge as a late rent payment fee. The same lack of statutory guidance applies to returned check fees, as well. As such, it is assumed that landlords operating in Louisiana are fully free to charge as much as they want in terms of fees, so long as notice of the fees and their terms are written into the applicable lease agreement.
Housing Discrimination in Louisiana
Federal Protections. The Fair Housing Act protects tenants from being discriminated against due to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. However, the law does not apply to all housing, such as owner-occupied homes with 4 or fewer units or housing operated by religious organizations.
State Protections. In general, Louisiana’s fair housing legislation does not protect any individuals besides those already categorized within a protected class under the federal Fair Housing Act. However, digital resources from the Louisiana Housing Corporation (a government entity) indicates that the state has made a precedent of protecting immigrants from being discriminated against based upon federal protections based on “national origin.”
Discriminatory Acts & Penalties. The Louisiana Housing Corporation regulates issues relating to landlord actions that are considered discriminatory under the state’s existing fair housing legislation. These are just a few common examples of business practices that they consider discriminatory when they are explicitly or implicitly directed at individuals of protected class:
- Refusing to rent, sell, or negotiate housing
- Misleading a prospective tenant about the availability of unit
- Setting different terms, conditions, or privileges between tenants
- Persuading or coercing individuals to sell against their own best interest (blockbusting)
- Denying access to a service or facility relating to the buying, selling, or rental of housing
- Refusing to provide certain financial services, including a mortgage or loan, on equitable terms
- Producing or posting advertisements that imply a preference for or against certain tenants
Complaints about housing discrimination can be filed with the Louisiana Attorney General’s office. These complaints are then processed and then handled on a case-by-case basis. However, the results of these investigations can only be used as evidence in filing a civil suit against the discriminatory landlord. The AG’s office itself does not dole out punishments for unfair housing practices.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Louisiana
If you’re experiencing a dispute with your landlord or tenant, be sure to read into these Louisiana-specific landlord-tenant laws and regulations. They can help provide clarity that in turn helps de-escalate any conflict between the two parties.
Landlord Entry. Louisiana does not maintain any statutory limitations or guidelines relating to a landlord’s right to entry. As such, landlords in this state are allowed to enter an occupied unit whenever they wish and for any reason by default. However, it is customary for landlords and tenants to agree to a reasonable standard for advance notice in the terms of their lease. Such agreements should also set forth the reasons why a landlord may enter, including for repairs, showings, or in cases of emergency.
Small Claims Court. Louisiana’s small claim court system is fairly decentralized, with different cities and parishes maintaining their own standards for when landlords and their tenants may bring suit against one another. To that end, different cities (such as Baton Rouge) limit the value of cases brought before their small claims court, with averages usually in the low thousands. Statutes of limitations in these kinds of cases are fairly uniform though, at around 10 years regardless of the relevant lease’s format.
Mandatory Disclosures. Louisiana landlords are only required to provide a disclosure relating to lead-based paint. Even then, this disclosure only needs to be provided to tenants living in housing built before 1978. More information about what kinds of hazards need to be described in this federally-mandated disclosure can be found here.
Changing the Locks. Louisiana landlords are not allowed to unilaterally change their tenant’s locks in order to induce a lockout. Doing so may result in sanctions against the offending landlord, including the repayment of damages. However, tenants may be able to undertake the same task without penalty because Louisiana law does not expressly forbid them from doing so.
Louisiana Landlord-Tenant Resources
Due to its broad language, it can be challenging to understand and apply Louisiana’s landlord tenant laws. However, these following resources should help you along that educational path:
A Guide to Louisiana Landlord & Tenant Laws – Published by the Louisiana Attorney General’s office, this handbook is a concise resource for understanding the practical application of the state’s sparse landlord-tenant laws. This guide’s arrangement is particularly easy to follow because it separates relevant laws into the pre- and post-leasing process.
Equal Housing – It’s Your Right – This Attorney General’s office pamphlet breaks down how state and federal fair housing legislation applies to tenants and landlords alike. This resource can be particularly useful to tenants, though, because it fully explains the state’s procedure for investigating and discharging discrimination complaints.
General Information about Small Claims Court in Louisiana – This digital resource is a great starting point for both landlords and tenants who feel that litigation will be necessary to settle their disputes. In particular, this resource excels because it takes you through every step of this slightly complex process and even helps you compile the paperwork necessary to file suit in Louisiana’s numerous small claims courts.