Landlords in Louisiana must follow very specific rules and procedures (set forth by Louisiana landlord-tenant law) when evicting a tenant. This article explains eviction in Louisiana, covering everything from the reasons why landlords can evict tenants, to the methods for serving an eviction notice in Louisiana, to the eviction itself.
The first step in the eviction process in Louisiana is for the landlord to let the tenant know that they are ending the tenancy. This is called "terminating" the tenancy, and is often called receiving an "eviction notice" in Louisiana.
How (and whether) a landlord can terminate a tenancy in Louisiana depends on whether the landlord has a reason ("cause") for terminating the tenancy, and whether the tenant has a long-term lease or a shorter-term rental agreement.
In Louisiana, when a tenant has a written lease and the landlord wants to kick the tenant out before the lease is over, the landlord must have a legal cause (good reason) to do so. If the landlord doesn't have a legal cause to evict the tenant, the landlord will have to wait until the lease expires for the tenant to leave.
Louisiana law defines legal cause for eviction very broadly. The most common causes are:
However, Louisiana eviction law also states that the tenancy can be terminated for any other legal reason. (Evictions based on discriminatory reasons or as retaliation for a tenant's exercising a legal right are not considered legal.)
In general, the most common reason for eviction besides failure to pay rent or a lease violation is a tenant's participation in illegal activity on the premises—acts such as using drugs, dealing drugs, or participating in gang activity.
When a Louisiana tenant has a lease, the landlord can't terminate the tenancy without cause. The landlord's only option for getting the tenant to leave is to wait until the lease is over. The landlord doesn't have to give the tenant notice that the lease is expiring. (La. Civ. Code art. 2720 (2023).)
When a Louisiana tenant has a rental agreement—such as a month-to-month agreement—the landlord must give the tenant a notice letting the tenant know that the landlord is ending the tenancy. The landlord must closely follow Louisiana's laws to successfully end the tenancy.
When a landlord wishes to end a month-to-month tenancy but doesn't have legal cause, the landlord can give the tenant notice to terminate 10 calendar days before the end of the month. This notice must inform the tenant that the month-to-month tenancy will end at the end of 10 days, and the tenant must move out of the rental unit by that time. (La. Civ. Code art. 2728 (2023).)
When a landlord has cause to end a tenancy early (as discussed above), the eviction process can proceed as follows:
The landlord must send the tenant a notice of termination. In Louisiana, this is often called a "notice to vacate."
Louisiana landlords must serve (deliver) a five-day notice to vacate. In other words, the landlord must give the tenant five days (not including weekends and holidays) to move out. The notice can be:
Louisiana notices to vacate are unconditional: Louisiana landlords don't have to give tenants the chance to become current with rent or fix a lease violation. Also, this notice can be waived in the lease—if waived, the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit immediately without giving the tenant any notice. (La. Code Civ. Proc. art. 4701 (2023).)
If the tenant moves out within the five days after the notice to vacate, the tenancy is over and the landlord has no need to file an eviction lawsuit.
If the tenant fails to move out by the deadline in the notice to vacate, the landlord can file a lawsuit for eviction. In Louisiana, filing an eviction lawsuit is called "filing a rule for possession." The landlord can file a rule for possession with the justice of the peace or city court. The lawsuit must state the grounds for the eviction. (La. Code Civ. Proc. art. 4731 (2023).)
The court will then issue a Rule for Possession. The Rule for Possession orders the tenant to appear in court for a hearing.
The landlord must have a sheriff or other law enforcement officer serve the Rule for Possession on the tenant. Neither the landlord nor anyone related to the lawsuit (such as an employee of the landlord) can serve the Rule for Possession.
The court will have a hearing (or trial) on the Rule for Possession no earlier than the third day after the Rule for Possession is served on the tenant. (La. Code Civ. Proc. art. 4732 (2023).)
At the trial, the tenant will have the opportunity to present any defense to the eviction, such as the landlord's failure to maintain the rental unit or the landlord's discriminatory basis for evicting 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.
If the tenant doesn't show up to the hearing, the judge has the power to enter a default judgment for the landlord. This means that the landlord automatically wins, and has the right to regain possession of the rental unit. Otherwise, the judge might rule on the hearing at the hearing, or wait a few days before making a final decision.
If the judge decides the hearing in favor of the landlord, the judge will issue a writ of possession that the landlord can use to have the tenant physically removed from the rental.
If the judge decides the hearing in favor of the tenant, the tenant has the right to remain in the rental.
When the landlord wins the Rule for Possession hearing, the judge will issue a Writ of Possession. The writ will give the tenant some time—usually 24 hours—to remove their belongings from the rental and move out.
If the tenant doesn't move out, the landlord can bring in the sheriff or other law enforcement to remove the tenant.
After the eviction, the landlord might have the right to seek from the tenant unpaid rent or payment for damage to the property. In most cases, the landlord will simply retain the tenant's security deposit to cover the amounts owed—especially when the landlord suspects that the tenant doesn't have funds that are worth going after.
If the landlord believes the tenant might have the ability to pay, the landlord can file a separate lawsuit to recover money damages that go beyond what the security deposit can cover.
Landlords must carefully follow all the rules and procedures required by Louisiana law when evicting a tenant. If there is a procedural error, such as not giving the tenant enough notice of the termination, the court will dismiss the eviction lawsuit, the tenant can remain in the rental (for the time being), and the landlord will have to restart the termination and eviction process.
Landlords must never resort to self-help procedures such as locking out the tenant or physically removing the tenant or the tenant's belongings from the rental. 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. The consequences of illegal evictions are serious: Landlords who illegally evict tenants may be subject to lawsuits by the tenant, and possibly even criminal charges.
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.
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.