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About Rent and Paying Rent

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

FAQs About Rent and Paying Rent

Does my landlord have to accept late rent? +

A landlord does not have to accept late rent unless it is within a grace period the landlord agreed to. The grace period will be listed in your lease. It will say “rent is late after the 5th” or something similar. The landlord may refuse late rent and sue in court to evict you.

If the landlord then takes the rent payment or if the landlord had a habit (custom) of taking late rent payments, and he did not give you a notice stating that he would no longer accept late payments, you may have a defense to an eviction suit for nonpayment of rent. You will need receipts to show that you always pay rent on a certain day that is later than what the lease says.

Can my landlord charge extra for late rent? +

Most leases include a late fee for late rent. Louisiana law is unclear on this issue but generally, there is no limit on how much the late fee can be. The landlord may sue for your eviction if you don't agree to pay a late fee along with your rent. Some subsidized housing programs place limits on the amount of the late fee.

Can my landlord raise my rent? +

Yes, if you are a month-to-month tenant or if your lease allows it. A landlord must give a month-to-month tenant a 10-day written notice to raise the rent for the next month.

If you have a lease, the landlord probably cannot raise the rent during your lease term. Read your lease to find out if it says something different.

If you live in subsidized housing, your rent is usually based on your income and family size. So your rent can generally be raised or lowered if your income or family size changes.

Can I withhold my rent if my landlord refuses to make repairs? +

No. Louisiana law does not allow the tenant to withhold rent when the landlord refuses to make repairs. Your landlord can evict you for nonpayment of rent even though he has not lived up to his duties to repair and maintain your apartment.

There are provisions in Louisiana law that allow a tenant in certain circumstances to pay for repairs and deduct that amount from the rent, but the tenant must follow the proper procedures first. It is best to talk with a lawyer first. It is easy to make a mistake and any withholding or deductions from rent could lead to an eviction action by the landlord!

Do I have to pay rent if flood or fire damage forced me to leave? +

No. Rent is generally not owed for the period that you are required to be out of the apartment due to flood or fire damage. Whether you can cancel your lease because of the flood or fire damage depends on how badly your apartment was damaged. You should talk to a lawyer for advice.

Do I owe future rent if I move out before my lease ends? +

If you have a fixed-term lease (for example, a lease that lasts one year or six months), you may have to pay for those months for which the landlord cannot find a tenant to take your place.

If the landlord does not do what he is supposed to do under the lease, the lease may give you the right to cancel. You should talk to a lawyer to find out if you can cancel your lease.

Can I choose how the landlord applies my payments? +

Yes, you can specify how you want the landlord to apply your payments. It is a good idea when you pay your monthly rent to write on a money order, check, or note accompanying your payment that you want your payment to go toward “April rent” (or whatever month it is for). If you specify what the payment is for, your landlord cannot apply the payment to something else under La. Civ. Code art. 1864. This specification must be made in writing and you must keep a copy. This is important because sometimes landlords use computer systems that apply payments to the oldest balance due. So if your landlord is saying you owe money for late fees, security deposit, or damages you dispute, the landlord can apply your rent payment to that instead of your rent. The landlord can then try to evict you for nonpayment of rent.

How should I pay my rent? +

You should never, ever, pay your rent in cash. Even if your landlord usually gives you receipts, he could decide not to one day and that will put you in a bad position. You should always pay in a money order, check, or online payment where you have some documentation of the payment. If you pay in a money order or check, take a picture of the filled out money order or check before you pay it. If you mail your rent, get tracking or send it by certified mail so that you can prove it was sent.

 

Warning: Even if your landlord insists you must pay in cash, you should pay in a money order. If your landlord refuses to accept it and tries to evict you, you will still have the dated money order showing that you tried to pay it on time. No judge should ever evict you for refusing to pay your landlord in cash. However, if your landlord tries to evict you for nonpayment of rent, and you cannot prove you tried to pay, you will probably get evicted. Remember that when it is your word against your landlord’s, the judge will usually side with your landlord so it is your job to bring proof to court.

What if I try to pay my rent in full but my landlord refuses to accept it? +

“Timely tender,” which means timely attempt to pay rent in full, is the same as paying rent under Louisiana law. It is a defense to eviction if your landlord then tries to evict you for nonpayment. I.e. your landlord cannot refuse your rent and then evict you for not paying it. However, it is your job to bring proof that you tried to pay it, ideally with a dated money order, post office receipt, and/or text message or other written communications with your landlord.

Can my landlord charge me extra fees on top of my rent? +

Your written lease, if you have one, governs the fees you ower your landlord. For example, you may have agreed to pay your landlord directly for lawn maintenance or other services, in addition to rent. Another example might include a monthly pet fee that is separate from the rent.

 

Late Fees

Louisiana law does allow landlord to charge late fees. There is no limit on the amount of a late fee. Your landlord may sue to evict you if you do not pay the late fee with your rent. If you have a written lease, read it to make sure the late fee charges match the lease terms.

Last Review and Update: Oct 18, 2021