You should see the exact unit you will rent, and not just a model unit. Inspect the premises, noting any damages, uncleanliness, or other issues on a checklist. Make two copies and have the landlord sign one and date it. If he refuses, have a friend take snapshots of the apartment, date them and witness it. Understand that rental of the unit in its present condition without further agreement as to repairs, means that the landlord must do nothing more as he or she is not responsible for any defects unless they violate health or building codes. Your landlord is obligated to maintain the rental premises in a habitable condition.
A lease is a legal agreement between a landlord and tenant. It usually sets out the amount of rent that must be paid and the length of time the apartment or other property may be rented. It also states the rights and duties of both parties.
No. The lease may be oral, especially if it is for a short period of time. A written lease is always preferable to an oral lease. If you live in an apartment where the federal government is paying a portion of your rent, you may have additional protections available to you under federal law.
Make sure you read and understand all of the clauses before signing it. Never sign a lease unless all blank spaces are filled in or crossed out. Get all oral promises in writing. Make sure both parties initial changes or additions to the lease on all copies. Ask for a copy of the rules governing tenants and read them before signing the lease. If tenants co-sign the lease, either may be held responsible for nonpayment of the entire rent, damage or breach of contract. A tenant must be given notice before being evicted. The landlord must give five days’ notice where there is cause for eviction, and 10 days’ notice if there is simply a termination of the lease.
Generally, landlords have the right to protect themselves against tenant damage to the premises by asking for a security deposit. The security deposit is usually equal to one month’s rent and is paid to the landlord before you move in. If you damage the property, or if you fail to pay the rent, the landlord may keep all or a part of the deposit to pay for the damage or unpaid rent. The Louisiana Rent Deposit Return Act requires your landlord to return your deposit within 30 days of termination of the lease, provided you have fulfilled the lease and left a forwarding address. If your landlord fails to return your deposit, you may sue in small claims court to recover it. Pet deposits are recoverable under this act.
  • You are obligated to do everything you agreed to do as stated in your signed lease, including paying the amount of rent on time every time, and using your rental unit for the purpose you agreed to in your lease. Leases typically limit the use of the premises to residential use, and forbid use as a business.
  • Only you and the other people listed on the lease should be living in your leased unit. Your lease may limit the number of days you are allowed to have guests stay in your home. 
  • Keep the premises in as clean and safe condition as possible. 
  • You are likely responsible for any damages you create, or that your family or visitors create. 
  • You should contact the landlord immediately if any damage occurs that creates a safety or health hazard to you or anyone living with you.
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 they have not lived up to their duties to repair and maintain your apartment. There are provisions in Louisiana laws that allow a tenant in certain circumstances to pay for repairs and deduct that amount from the rent, but you 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.
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. Rent may not legally be increased during the term of a lease in the absence of a valid “rent escalation clause.” Escalation clauses can be invalidated if the price is not readily understandable, or is dependent on the landlord’s whim. 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.
It might be a good idea. Unless your lease says otherwise, your landlord’s insurance will only cover the building – not your possessions. Renter’s insurance is relatively inexpensive and could make a big difference if you need to replace such items as a microwave, TV or computer.
No. It is against the law to discriminate in renting, leasing or selling housing on the basis of race, national origin, sex, color, religion, disability or familial status.
  • A lease between two parties is valid even if it is not filed with the parish. However, the sale of the building you live in may affect your right to stay there.
  • Louisiana requires a lease to be recorded in the conveyance office in the parish where the building is located in order for the lease to affect the new owner of the property. There is a fee to file your lease. If your building is up for sale, or you think it may go up for sale, you may want to file your lease with the parish. This will make the new owner legally obligated to fulfill the terms of your lease.
  • If you get a Notice to Vacate, you may not have a lot of time to decide your next steps. If you want to stay, you should first try to work out a deal with the landlord. Some landlords just want the rent to be paid.
  • 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 you have paid the rent or that the landlord accepted the rent after he gave you the Notice to Vacate.
    • A “Notice to Vacate” is not a court order that forces you to move out. A “Notice to Vacate” means that your landlord plans to file a lawsuit for eviction if you don't move out by the end of the notice period. The landlord cannot get a court order for eviction until there has been a trial before a judge.
    • The “Notice to Vacate” may be posted to your door. The notice does not have to be given to you personally and it does not have to be stamped with a court seal. It can be on a court form, and written by the landlord or his agent.
  • 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.
  • You may need to give your landlord a written move-out-notice weeks, or months, before your lease ends. The amount of time in which you must give your written move-out-notice will be specified in your lease. If you move out without giving proper notice, or move out before the lease has expired, you may be liable for additional payment.
  • Leave the rental unit in the same condition it was found. Aside from the normal wear-and-tear of living, there should be no alterations to the condition of the rental unit unless you and your landlord agreed to those changes (and ideally take photos and sign a paper indicating the agreement). Take photos when you move out to document the condition.

Louisiana State Bar Association
601 St. Charles Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70130
(800) 421-LSBA(5722) / (504) 566-1600