Louisiana

Repairs--What Can I Do When My Landlord Won't Make Them (Spanish version with video and text)

Authored By: Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (New Orleans office) LSC Funded
Read this in:
Spanish / Español

FAQ

Does my landlord have to keep my home safe and in decent condition?

Yes. Louisiana law requires the landlord to maintain your home and make necessary repairs. In addition, your city and parish laws may require that apartments meet minimum housing standards. However, it is often difficult to get your landlord to make repairs.

What can I do if my home needs repairs?

Ask your landlord to fix the problem. You should follow up with a written request. If he fails to fix the problem, you have several possible legal remedies. If the problems are serious, you may complain to the parish housing or health departments or file a damages law suit against your landlord. Under Louisiana law, you generally cannot withhold your rent or sue to compel repairs.

If you are a month-to-month tenant, you should consider moving to another apartment. If you have a lease, the landlord's failure to repair serious problems may give you the right to cancel the lease. You should talk with a lawyer to determine whether you have a case for lease cancellation.

If you live in subsidized housing, the local or federal agency that supervises your apartments may have the power to order the necessary repairs done. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has a complaint line for people to report bad subsidized landlords--including those who fail to provide safe and sanitary housing. HUD can punish bad landlords by kicking them out of federally subsidized housing programs.

Can I just refuse to pay my rent if my landlord won't fix things?

No. You will risk eviction and still be charged for the rent while you are living there. Some subsidized tenants may have a right to withhold if the apartment defects threaten safety and health. However, you should always talk to a lawyer before you decide to stop paying rent.

Can I fix the problem myself?

If you have a lease, read it to see what it says about repairs and who has to make them.

Sometimes if a repair is minor, you can "repair and deduct." That means you can fix the problem and deduct the reasonable cost from your next month's rent. Here are the rules:

1. The problem must be the sort of repair that law requires the landlord to fix, like things that happen from normal use of the property. The repair cannot be for something you, your family or guests did to to the property. In general, the landlord is supposed to fix important things other than damage to lower interior walls, floors, windows, doors and locks.

2. You must be able to fix the problem for less than your monthly rent if you are a month-to-month tenant. If you have a longer lease, you may be able to make repairs that are less than the future rents owed.

3. Ask the landlord, in writing, to make the repairs. Keep a copy of the letter and proof of how you mailed it for your records. Click here for a sample letter to ask for repairs.

There is an online forms program to help you fill out your letter, on a site called "Automated Documents Online." Click here for tips about using the website with the online documents. If you want to fill out your form online using the Automated Documents Online site, click here. This link takes you to the site of Automated Documents Online. (Note: if you have problems with a "popup blocker" you may have to hold down the key marked "Ctrl" while clicking.)

4. If the landlord does not make the repairs, write again with estimates for how much it would cost to do the repairs. Send the letter by regular and certified mail, and keep a copy of the letter and how you mailed it for your records. In the letter, ask the landlord to fix the problem within 14 days (or sooner if it is an emergency). Tell him that if he does not do the repairs, you will have it fixed and deduct the cost from your rent. Click here for a sample letter that tells the landlord you intend to use the repair and deduct law if the landlord does not make the repairs.

There is an online forms program to help you fill out your letter, on a site called "Automated Documents Online." Click here for tips about using the website with the online documents. If you want to fill out your form online using the Automated Documents Online site, click here. This link takes you to the site of Automated Documents Online. (Note: if you have problems with a "popup blocker" you may have to hold down the key marked "Ctrl" while clicking.)

5. Remember, if your landlord offers to fix the problem, you must let him into your home to do the repairs.

6. If the landlord refuses to do the repairs, remember that you must do a good job of the repairs if you decide to go ahead and have the repairs done. You will have to prove that the repairs were necessary, and you will have to prove that the repair cost was reasonable.

Warning: You must actually do the repairs.

After the work is done, send your landlord a copy of the bill.

Warning: If you are a month-to-month tenant, your landlord may respond to your repairs by giving you an eviction notice the next month.

Click here for a sample letter to send with the bill for making the repairs. Keep a copy of your letter, proof of how you mailed it and the original repair bill for your records.

There is an online forms program to help you fill out your letter, on a site called "Automated Documents Online." Click here for tips about using the website with the online documents. If you want to fill out your form online using the Automated Documents Online site, click here. This link takes you to the site of Automated Documents Online. (Note: if you have problems with a "popup blocker" you may have to hold down the key marked "Ctrl" while clicking.)