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Eviction Dictionary

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab
How to Use this Dictionary Words that Describe the People Involved in Lawsuits Words that Describe Papers in Lawsuits Words That Describe the Processes Used in Lawsuits Words Used in Louisiana Eviction Lawsuits Rule for Possession Constructive Eviction

How to Use this Dictionary

At the top of each section of this dictionary, you will see a list of commonly used words in alphabetical order.  Click on any word to jump to that word's definition in this dictionary.  Or, you can skim the definitions, which are listed in the order that they would appear in the lawsuit process. 

Words that Describe the People Involved in Lawsuits


Self-Represented LitigantA person who is a party to a lawsuit and has no attorney to represent them is a self-represented litigant. These resources are designed with self-represented litigants in mind.  

PlaintiffThe plaintiff is the person who first files the lawsuit.  The plaintiff's name is the first name in the case caption.  In the case caption "John Smith vs. Jane Doe," the plaintiff is John Smith.

DefendantThe defendant is the person who is named in a lawsuit filed by a plaintiff.  In the case caption "John Smith vs. Jane Doe," Jane Doe is the defendant. 

CourtThe judge in any given case is sometimes called "the Court".  In lawsuits, judges are not making decisions as individuals.  Instead, they are using the law to make decisions.  When we say "the Court" makes a ruling, it is the judge who makes the ruling. 

PartiesThe word "parties" is used to describe all of the people involved in a lawsuit.  In the case captioned "John Smith vs. Jane Doe," both John Smith and Jane Doe are the parties.  "Litigants" is another word for parties in a lawsuit. 

Opposing PartyThe opposing party is the party on the "other" or opposite side in a lawsuit. 

Clerk of Court The supervisor of clerical functions of the court. They keep records, issue service of process, and enter judgments and orders. You can contact them to learn about what's been filed in your case.

Words that Describe Papers in Lawsuits

PleadingA pleading is the formal legal term for the papers filed with the Court.  In Louisiana, there are four kinds of pleadings allowed: petitions, exceptions, written motions, and answers.  

PetitionA petition is a paper filed with the Court that asserts allegations against another party and request the Court to enter a judgment in favor of the party who filed the petition based on the facts asserted and the law that applies. When a petition starts a lawsuit, it is called an "original petition". Complaint is another word for petition. 

AllegationAn allegation is just a statement of fact that has not yet been proven.

MotionsMotions are any request for the Court to take action by making a ruling, issuing an order, or entering a judgment.  A written motion filed with the Court is a pleading, but in certain circumstances, motions can be made orally in Court.

AnswerAn answer is a paper filed in response to a petition or motion that admits or denies the allegations in the petition or motion. In an answer, a party must admit or deny the statements made by the opposing party in the original petition and state any defenses available to that party.

JudgmentThe Court's written decision on the issue in dispute in a case.    

Words That Describe the Processes Used in Lawsuits

Summary ProceedingsAre types of cases that move more quickly, by law, because of the nature of the rights at issue.  Summary proceedings are "conducted with rapidity, within the delays allowed by the court, and without citation and the observance of all the formalities required in ordinary proceedings." Eviction cases are summary proceedings. 

Ordinary ProceedingsOrdinary proceedings are one of three "modes" of court procedure in Louisiana: ordinary, summary, and executory. Most lawsuits are handled under the rules applicable to ordinary proceedings. 

FilingThe process by which a party presents papers to the Clerk of Court to make the papers part of the official court record. 

ServiceThe formal legal term for delivery of papers filed with the Court to the opposing party in a lawsuit. Service means that the proper legal officer gives the opposing party the paperwork that has been filed with the Court by the other side. Read this article  on Understanding Service of Process for more information on the methods used for service and how to make service. 

HearingThe event that occurs when both parties are present in court to provide evidence and testimony about the case or make legal arguments about the case.  The judge presides over all hearings.  A trial is a hearing.  

Default Judgment A default judgment is one entered by the Court when a defendant in the principal or incidental demand fails to answer or file other pleadings within the time allowed by law or by the court. 

Words Used in Louisiana Eviction Lawsuits


Landlord (Lessor)A landlord is a person who agrees that their property can be used by another person.  In Louisiana, this person who agrees that their property can be used by another person is also called a "lessor".

Tenant (Lessee)A tenant is a person who has the right to use another person's property. In Louisiana, the word used to describe persons with the right to use another person's property is "lessee."

LeaseA lease is an agreement for one party (lessee) to use property owned by another (lessor).  A lease is a kind of contract.  To create a lease, the parties to the contract (lessor and lessee) must agree on: (1) the thing to be rented; (2) the rent to be paid; and (3) the term, or length of time. Contracts are simply agreements that are legally enforceable. In Louisiana, the lease agreement for a home or apartment does not have to be written to be enforceable.  However, it does have to be written to be effective against third parties, or people who are not part of the agreement.  

Month-to-monthMonth-to-month tenants are those that do not have: (1) a written lease with (2) a fixed end date. A month-to-month tenancy can be created by reconduction after the expiration of a fixed-term lease or it can be a verbal agreement between the lessor and lessee. 

OccupantAn occupant describes a person who has possession of a property belonging to another, but without the rights of a lessee. Persons who are living in hotels, campgrounds, nursing homes, or other temporary living arrangements that do not require a lease could be occupants.  A person whose lease has expired, but who has not yet paid rent or otherwise gotten the landlord's consent to remain in the home could also be an occupant.

EvictionEviction describes the process by which an owner removes an occpuant or tenant from property. It is a summary proceeding in Louisiana.

Constructive EvictionConstructive eviction is when the landlord, by their acts or failure to act, violates the tenant's "peaceful possession" of the leased thing. A constructive eviction can be anything that interferes with the tenant's use of the property, like changing the locks or cutting off utilities. For more information, see this article on Constructive Eviction.

Notice to VacateA Notice to Vacate means that your landlord plans to file a lawsuit for your eviction if you don't move out by the end of the notice period.  It is not a court order to move out. The landlord cannot get a court order for eviction until there has been a trial before a judge. It is sometimes called a Notice to Quit. For more information about what must be included in a Notice to Vacate and the proper method for giving a tenant notice, read About the Notice to Vacate.

ReconductionReconduction happens if, at the end of a fixed-term lease, a tenant remains in possession of the property for a certain amount of time and the landlord does not object. When the fixed term of the expired lease was one month or longer, the lease is reconducted from "month-to-month".

Repair and DeductRepair and deduct is the name of a process that tenants can use to make necessary repairs to the property they have leased and to deduct the cost of those necessary repairs from their rent.  To learn more about this process, read How Can I Make Repairs and Deduct the Cost from My Rent in Louisiana?

Rule for PossessionA Rule for Possession is the paper a landlord will file with the Court to start the eviction case.  It cannot be filed until after the time delay required by the Notice to Vacate.  It may also be called a Rule to Evict. For more information, read this article on the Rule for Possession.

Equitable DiscretionEquitable discretion describes the judge's ability to make a fair ruling under the circumstances, even if there has been a technical lease violation.  

Warrant of PossessionA warrant of possession is a paper that comes from the Court and gives the landlord the right to get his apartment back. You must move out of your apartment after getting the warrant. If you do not move out, the sheriff or constable will remove you and your property.

Subsidized housingSubsidized housing means housing provided through government subsidies. It includes public housing, project-based Section 8, tax credit, or other government-subsidized housing.  Different laws apply to subsidized housing.  While these pages contain some information that applies to subsidized housing, it is in your best interest to contact an attorney if you are a tenant of subsidized housing.  

Justice of the PeaceJustice of the Peace is an elected judicial officer of a justice of the peace court. Use this directory to find a justice of the peace court.

ConstableA constable is an officer of a justice of the peace court.

Lessor's Privilege A lessor's privilege gives a landlord the right to take their tenant's property to offset damages if the tenant has failed to pay rent, damaged property, or has otherwise violated the lease. However, a landlord cannot take the tenant's property without first getting a court order for unpaid rent or damages.

Last Review and Update: Oct 20, 2021