Landlords in Louisiana must follow very specific rules and procedures (set forth by Louisiana law) when evicting a tenant. This article will explain how these rules and procedures work in Louisiana and what a landlord or property manager must do when evicting a tenant.
To evict a tenant in Louisiana, a landlord must first terminate the lease or rental agreement. To do this, the landlord must have a legal cause (good reason) to terminate. Louisiana law defines legal cause for eviction very broadly. The most common causes are failure to pay rent or violation of the lease or rental agreement. However, the law also states that the tenancy can be terminated for any other reason (not including illegal reasons, such as eviction based on discrimination). This means that the landlord could also evict the tenant for illegal activity, drug use, or similar acts.
The first step in terminating the tenancy is to give the tenant notice. In Louisiana, landlords use the same type of notice no matter the reason for the eviction: a five-day notice to vacate. The landlord is not required to give the tenant any time to pay rent or correct a lease violation. As soon as rent is late or a violation has occurred, the landlord can give the tenant a five-day notice to vacate, and the tenant must move out of the rental unit by the end of the five days. If the tenant does not move out, then the landlord can go to court and file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant. (La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 4701.)
When a landlord does not have legal cause to evict a tenant, the landlord must wait until the term of the tenancy has expired. In some cases, the landlord will still need to give the tenant written notice to move.
When a landlord wishes to end a month-to-month tenancy but does not have legal cause, the landlord can give the tenant a ten-day notice of termination. This notice must inform the tenant that the month-to-month tenancy will end at the end of ten days, and the tenant must move out of the rental unit by that time. (La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 2728.)
When a landlord wishes to end a fixed-term tenancy but does not have legal cause, then the landlord must wait until the term has expired before expecting the tenant to move. Unless the lease or rental agreement specifically requires it, the landlord is not required to give the tenant any notice. The landlord can expect the tenant to move by the end of the tenancy, unless the tenant has indicated otherwise.
Even though a landlord might have a valid legal reason to evict a tenant, the tenant can still decide to fight the eviction. The tenant might also have a valid defense to the eviction, such as the landlord failing to maintain the rental unit or the landlord discriminating against the tenant. The tenant's decision to fight the eviction could mean that the cost of the eviction lawsuit increases or that the tenant gets to remain in the rental unit for a longer period of time.
A landlord must never force a tenant to move out of the rental unit. The only legal way to remove the tenant is for the landlord to win an eviction lawsuit in court. Even after the landlord wins the eviction lawsuit, the only person authorized to remove the tenant is a law enforcement officer. It is illegal for the landlord to attempt to force the tenant to move out of the rental unit, and the tenant can sue the landlord for an illegal eviction.
After the tenant has been evicted, the landlord might find that the tenant has left personal property behind in the rental unit. Louisiana law is not very clear on what the landlord should do with tenants' abandoned property. If the property has any value (either monetary value or sentimental value), the best practice for the landlord would be to take inventory of the property and store it in a safe location. Then, the landlord should contact the tenant and allow the tenant reasonable time to claim the property. If the tenant does not claim the property in a reasonable amount of time, then the landlord can dispose of the property.
Landlords must carefully follow all the rules and procedures required by Louisiana law when evicting a tenant; otherwise, the eviction might not be valid. Although these rules and procedures can seem burdensome to the landlord, they are there for a reason. Evictions often occur very quickly, and the end result is serious: the tenant has lost a place to live. The rules help ensure the eviction is justified and that the tenant has enough time to find a new home.