Evictions--What Rights Do I Have?

Authored By: Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (New Orleans office) LSC Funded


Can my landlord just lock me out?

No, it is against the law for your landlord to lock you out or throw you out. Your landlord must get a court order to evict you.

If your landlord changes your locks, shuts off your utilities or takes your property, he has broken the law. A court may order him to stop breaking the law and to pay you damages.

Can my landlord evict me for no reason?

It depends.

If you are a month-to-month tenant, your landlord can evict you without any reason.

If you have a written lease or if you live in subsidized housing, then your landlord cannot evict you for no reason.

Month-to-Month Tenants

If you rent by the month and do not have an agreement as to how long your rental will last, you are a "month-to-month" tenant.

If you are a month-to-month tenant, your landlord can evict you for "no cause" or reason. But the landlord must give you 10 days' notice in writing before the end of the current rental period.

If the landlord does not give you the right notice, the judge should order the landlord to start the eviction process over -- usually for the next month. Defenses to these 10 day "no cause" evictions are limited.

But if you do something to break your agreement, like not paying your rent, your landlord can generally evict you on 5 days' notice.

Written Lease or SubsidizedHousing

If you have a written lease or if you live in subsidized housing, your landlord usually needs a good reason to evict you.

For example, failure to pay rent or another violation of the lease.

If your lease has run out you may be evicted without a good reason, unless you live in public housing or certain types of subsidized housing.

Must my landlord give me notice before he sues for eviction?

Yes, your landlord has to give you notice before suing for eviction, unless you agreed in writing that you would not get this notice.

The notice is usually called a "Notice to Vacate." The amount of notice usually depends on whether you have a written lease and what the lease says.

If you have a lease, read the lease. It should tell you what notice the landlord must give and the reasons the landlord must have to evict you.

If your lease has ended and does not automatically renew, your landlord may be able to sue without giving prior notice. Read the lease.

If you are a month-to-month tenant (like many people who rent without a lease), your landlord must give you either 10 days or 5 days written notice to leave. If you do something to violate your agreement, like not paying your rent, your landlord only has to give you 5 days' notice.

Your landlord must give you at least 10 days' notice before the end of the rental month if the landlord wants to evict you for no reason.

The Notice to Vacate may be posted to your door. The Notice to Vacate does not have to be given to you personally in your hand.

The Notice to Vacate does not have to be stamped with a court seal. It can be on a court form or written by the landlord or his agent.

What does a "Notice to Vacate" mean? Do I have to move out?

A 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.

If you get a Notice to Vacate, you should quickly decide what to do. If you want to stay, you should first try to work out a deal with the landlord. Some landlords just want their rent paid.

If you don't have a good eviction defense, you should move. You need to find a new apartment before the landlord can get a court order evicting you.

If possible, talk to a lawyer about whether you can stop the eviction. Defenses to a 10 day "no cause" eviction are limited. The most common defenses are that the notice was less than 10 days or that the landlord accepted the rent after he gave you the Notice to Vacate.

If you have a written lease or live in public or subsidized housing, you may have other defenses to the eviction. You should try to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.

What happens after a Notice to Vacate?

If you do not move out by the end of the Notice to Vacate period, your landlord may have you served with court papers called a "Rule for Possession."

A Rule for Possession is a lawsuit by the landlord asking that you be evicted. The Rule for Possession should tell you the date, time and place of the trial and the reasons why the landlord wants to evict you.

The Rule for Possession asks the court to hold a trial and decide whether you can be evicted. If you want to fight the eviction, you have the right to be heard in court and to present your defenses.

How much time do I have before the eviction trial?

A constable or sheriff will give you the Rule for Possession or post it on your door. The landlord can have these papers sent to you anytime after the end of the Notice To Vacate period.

The Rule for Possession must be sent to you at least 2 full days before the trial.

Can I stop an eviction by paying the rent?

A landlord generally does not have to accept late rent unless it was within a grace period. The landlord may refuse the rent and sue you for eviction. If he later accepts the rent or had a custom of accepting late rent, you may have a defense to an eviction for nonpayment of rent.

How do I stop the eviction if I have defenses?

File a notarized answer with the Clerk's office before the trial. This answer must state your defenses to the eviction. You must swear before a notary that the statements in your answer are true.

Many justice of the peace courts do not charge tenants for court fees. However, parish and city courts generally charge tenants for an answer to an eviction. If you cannot afford the costs, ask the court to allow you to file your answer for free. To ask the court if you can file for free, you must file an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. For more information on how to do this, see the LawHelp item called "In Forma Pauperis--When You Can't Afford Court Costs."

If you lose the trial, you have 24 hours to appeal and must post an appeal bond.

For more information about stopping an eviction, see the LawHelp items called "How to Defend an Eviction" and "How to Appeal an Eviction."

What happens if I do not go to the eviction trial?

You will lose. The judge will most likely enter a "default judgment" against you. Then the landlord can get a "Warrant for Possession" 24 hours after the judgment to have you evicted by the constable or sheriff.

What happens if I go to court and lose?  

If the court rules against you and you do not timely appeal, your landlord can get a "Warrant of Possession" from the court 24 hours after the judgment to have you evicted by the constable or sheriff.

You can appeal to a higher court. For information on your appeal rights, see "How to Appeal an Eviction."

If you are not going to appeal, you should promptly move out before you are thrown out.

Will the court give me more time to move?

Sometimes. Generally, most judges will only give you extra time if the landlord agrees to extra time. Ask the judge for extra time if you need it. Explain what hardship you will suffer if you have to move out right away. If you have looked hard for a new place to live, but still have not found one, it may help to explain this. There is no legal right to extra time, but some judges may give you extra time if you really need it.

I never received notice of my eviction. Can I do anything about the eviction judgment?

In some cases you may have a right to have the judgment called off. For example, if you did not get notice or your landlord evicted you for "no cause" even though you paid your rent or had a written lease. You should talk to a lawyer to see if you have this right in your case.

To stop a judgment in such cases, you must immediately file either a Petition for Nullity of Judgment or a Motion for New Trial with the eviction court. You must also ask the judge to "stay" or stop the eviction until he has heard your Petition or Motion. It is not easy for non-lawyers to do this. If possible, you should get a lawyer.

What is a warrant of possession?

This paper 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.

Last Review and Update: Oct 24, 2006

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