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What the courts need to do is different in different situations. In general, the Louisiana Supreme Court has ordered that video hearings (such as Zoom) should be used as much as possible for court hearings. Some courts are doing most of their hearings that way.
When the courts require people show up in person, the Louisiana Supreme Court has ordered the courts must take the steps needed to allow social distancing. Under the Governor’s Orders, courts must also enforce mask-wearing throughout the facility.
If you get a notice to go to court, you can call the Judge’s staff (but not the judge) and find out what can be done to keep safe.
If you have been told to come to court, but that would mean a higher risk of getting Covid than you have in your day to day life, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services may be able to help you. This includes if you would face a risk in getting to court. (For example, if you would have to use public transportation or get a ride from someone you are not normally close to.) Call our COVID-19 Helpline at 1-844-244-7871 to see if we can provide free help.
If you requested a hearing by video, you must provide the court with a good phone number and email address that you will be checking daily. The information for your videoconference hearing will likely be sent by email. If your contact information changes, you should let the court know as soon as possible.
You should check your email often (at least daily) leading up to your hearing, since the court may send information about your case and you may need to take action quickly.
Do not ignore the video hearing. If you cannot make the hearing, notify the court in advance (unless it was something like an emergency hospitalization).
If you cannot connect to the hearing using the information sent to you, contact the court immediately. If your connection drops during the hearing or if you are kicked off of the call, immediately try to get back in. If this does not work, contact the court.
If you are able to connect but cannot see or hear the other people on the call, do not just leave the meeting. Try to let the other people on the call know about the issues you are having by either speaking or using the “chat” feature on the program or calling the judge’s staff while the hearing is still happening.
If you do not connect for your hearing and do not answer if the court tries to contact you, a judgment may be entered against you. This may require you to file additional motion(s) and paperwork with the court, or else lose your case.
Other tips for your virtual hearing can be found here.
First call the judge’s staff. (Where to find the number is set out above.) Ask if a decision was made by the court on your case, and if so what can be done to undo it.
If you need help and do not have an attorney on the case, call our COVID-19 Helpline at 1-844-244-7871 to see if we can provide free help.
People do not generally have a choice about whether they are involved in court proceedings. (This is different, for example from going to a store or a restaurant where you might be able to “vote with your feet” and choose another restaurant or store if you feel that things are unsafe.)
To try to get things fixed you can:
You can also call Southeast Louisiana Legal Services if you are in a court case and need help keeping safe. Call our COVID-19 Helpline at 1-844-244-7871 to see if we can provide free help.
What provisions of the CARES Act Eviction Moratorium Remain in Effect?
On September 4, 2020 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a moratorium (ban) on certain residential evictions through December 31, 2020. For more information on this new moratorium and a link to the required declaration form tenants must fill out, click here.
In addition to the CDC moratorium, certain provisions of the previous eviction moratorium under the CARES Act remain in effect. This document outlines the eviction protections under the CARES Act that remain in effect as of the date of this post.
What provisions of the CARES Act remain in effect (Updated 8/28/2020)
FAQ: What should I do if my tenant can’t pay rent during the Covid-19 crisis?
Information for landlords
Please note: This FAQ is current as of June 5, 2020. Nothing in this FAQ should be construed as legal advice.
No, as of the date of this writing, the law has not canceled or forgiven your tenant’s rent obligation.
However, you have the ability with the consent of your tenant to amend your lease to forgive or reduce your tenant’s rent obligation for one or more months during the Covid-19 crisis. You do not need to redo your entire lease, you can just make an agreement that modifies your lease by text message or email (make sure the exchange shows the consent of both parties) or in writing on a piece of paper (make sure the writing has signatures from you and your tenant). Under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act passed on March 27, 2020 you may qualify for loan forbearance or other relief if your mortgage is federally backed. You may have a forbearance option to extend the term of your loan without interest or penalties, so that you have no mortgage payment due during a particular month. Especially if you have this relief, you may consider forgiving or reducing your tenant’s rent obligation.
You also have the ability to extend the deadline for rent payment or let the tenant catch up on their rent using a payment plan. Many tenants have lost jobs due to Covid-19, but will eventually be receiving stimulus payments from the IRS or expanded unemployment benefits in the coming weeks. The City of New Orleans and other local governments may have rental assistance funds. It is unpredictable when these payments will hit, but it may be in your best interest to wait for your tenant to get relief so that you can ultimately get paid.
It depends on whether your property is covered by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act, more commonly called the Stimulus bill or third federal coronavirus Act. The CARES Act prohibits charging late fees or other penalties for rent that is late between March 27, 2020 and July 25, 2020. It applies to you if your property is:
You can read Section 4024 of the CARE Act at https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/748/text.
You might not know whether your mortgage is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, but you can look it up at one of these websites or numbers:
Fannie Mae: https://www.knowyouroptions.com/loanlookup
Freddie Mac: https://ww3.freddiemac.com/loanlookup/
Fannie Mae (FNMA): 1-800-2FANNIE (1-800-232-6643)
Freddie Mac (FHLMC): 1-800-FREDDIE (1-800-373-3343)
You are likely to know if you have a loan mortgage backed by any of these federal programs, but if you are unsure you can check your loan paperwork and/or call:
USDA direct or guaranteed loan: 1-800-414-1226
VA loan, direct or guaranteed loan: 1-877-827-3702
If you have a multifamily property you can look the property up on this database (but it lists only some of the covered multi-family properties): https://nlihc.org/federal-moratoriums
Currently, there is a statewide moratorium on evictions until June 15, 2020. No matter what kind of property you have, you cannot evict your tenant until after that date. Note that per the Governor’s proclamations, all legal deadlines are suspended from March 16, 2020 until at least June 15, 2020. This means if you gave your tenant a notice to vacate after March 16, or if the notice period was interrupted on March 16, you cannot file right away because the notice period was suspended, or frozen, on March 16. Remember that the 5-day notice to vacate period does not include weekends or holidays.
For example, if you gave your tenant a 5-day notice to vacate on March 15, only one day of the notice period ran before the Governor’s suspension. So you need to allow four more legal days after the suspension lifts on June 15 before you can file the eviction. This means the first day you can file the eviction at court would be June 19.
Similarly, if you gave a 5-day notice to vacate any time on or after March 16, the notice period does not begin to run until June 15. Since weekends don’t count, the first day you can file the eviction at court would be June 22.
If your property is covered by the CARES Act, as discussed above, you are barred from filing an eviction against your tenant for nonpayment of rent or fees until after July 25, 2020. After July 25, 2020 you must provide a 30-day notice under the federal law.
You can read Section 4024 of the CARES Act at https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/748/text.
If your property is a “covered property” under the CARES Act, as defined above, you are barred from issuing a Notice to Vacate until after July 25, 2020. After July 25, 2020 you must provide a 30-day notice under the CARES Act.
You can read Section 4024 of the CARES Act at https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/748/text.
Absolutely not. “Self help” or extrajudicial evictions are illegal in Louisiana. You must get a court judgment of eviction and a Warrant for Possession (sometimes called a Writ of Ejection) unless your tenant voluntarily leaves. If you take any action to force your tenant out or disturb their use of their lease through changing the locks, cutting off utilities, physically removing their belongings, or harassing them until they leave, you may be liable for substantial damages for wrongful eviction. Law enforcement officers do not have jurisdiction to put your tenant out without an eviction judgment.
Keep lines of communication with your tenant open and amicable if possible. These are stressful times for everyone. Your tenant may get financial relief soon and be able to start making payments. Since you cannot evict right now, it’s in everyone’s best interest to work together. Be sure that any agreement you and your tenant come up with is in writing and something written or electronic shows it was agreed to by both parties.
Luckily, there are forbearance and other relief options available to you, too. Foreclosures are temporarily halted for many homeowners under the CARES Act. For detailed information about relief options for homeowners see https://slls.org/covid_foreclosure_prevention/
Property owners with lost rental income may also be able to qualify for assistance from the Community Support Fund of the Finance Authority of New Orleans. To apply for FANO’s CSF assistance, residents should call (504) 524-5533, (504) 354-0904, or email: email@example.com. Applicants will be pre-screened to determine basic eligibility and will receive notice of the documentation needed to qualify for the program.
During the Covid-19 crisis, some tenants may need to terminate their lease agreements early due to health issues, safety concerns, family caregiving responsibilities, or changed financial situations. This FAQ addresses risks and options for terminating your lease agreement early, otherwise known as “breaking your lease.”
Please note that some of the information in this FAQ is specific to Louisiana law and may not be applicable in other jurisdictions.
As of the date of this writing, the law has not changed to make it easier for you to get out of a lease agreement due to the Covid-19 crisis. However, you may have some options under existing law.
If you move out before the end of your lease, most leases say your landlord can keep your security deposit.
If you move out before the end of your lease, your landlord could also try to charge you the rent due for the remainder of the lease term. For example, if you move out three months into a year lease, the landlord could try to charge you the remaining seven months of rent even though you would not be living there anymore.
Your landlord does have a “duty to mitigate damages” under the law, meaning they have to try to re-rent the apartment.
There are three ways your landlord could pursue the remainder of the rent due under the lease:
If your landlord sues you, you have a right to defend yourself in court. If your landlord reports a debt to the credit bureaus, you have a right to contest it. It is important to create a paper trail to protect yourself in case either of these things happens.
Note: There is no court or administrative proceeding you can go through to get out of your lease in Louisiana. However, you can create a good paper trail in case your landlord tries to hold you liable for breaking your lease. The letters and documentation suggested below could be shown to a judge in the event that the matter ends up in court. Please note a judge will make a final decision on whether you broke your lease for a legally valid reason, and there is no way to guarantee a final result.
Your first option is to speak to the landlord and ask if they would be willing to end the lease early. If they will agree to let you leave the lease early you should get the agreement in writing and you and the landlord should sign it. If your landlord signs an agreement ending your lease early you may still be able to get your security deposit back.
Read through your lease. If there is a section that includes the words “force majeure” or “act of god,” see if that section gives you the option to break the lease in the event of an unforeseen event outside of your control like a hurricane or pandemic. If there is a clause like this, bring it to your landlord’s attention and/or write a letter explaining that you are terminating your lease agreement early based on this clause. Keep a copy of the letter for your records.
If you lost income due to Covid-19 and it is impossible for you to meet your obligations under the lease, you may be able to make an argument under La. Civil Code article 1873. This law can be used when it is “impossible” to do what you agreed to do in your lease, like paying rent. Specifically, the law states “An obligor is not liable for his failure to perform when it is caused by a fortuitous event that makes performance impossible.” In other words, due to an event beyond your control (in this case the COVID-19 pandemic), you can no longer work and so cannot pay the rent you agreed to pay.
Issues that will stop this argument from working:
The Fair Housing Act requires that a landlord provide a “reasonable accommodation,” or exception to normal rules and policies, for a person with disabilities, when they need the accommodation as a result of their disability. 42 U.S.C. 3604(f)(3)(B).
A disability is a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”
An accommodation is reasonable if it does not cause the landlord an “undue administrative or financial burden,” i.e. if it does not cost the landlord too much money and or time and effort.
If you have Covid-19 or an underlying chronic health condition that make you more vulnerable to Covid-19 infection, like diabetes, a respiratory condition, or an immune system disorder, and you need to move to avoid possible infection or seek medical treatment, you could request early lease release as a reasonable accommodation for you disability.
If you have anxiety, depression, or other mental health disabilities, and the you need to move because your disability has been aggravated by your current living situation, you could request an early lease release as a reasonable accommodation
Note: You do not need documentation from a medical professional to make the initial reasonable accommodation request. But the landlord is entitled to ask for verification of your disability and the need for an accommodation if it is not obvious to them. If your landlord asks for verification, you must be able to show documentation from a qualified professional - a doctor, nurse, social worker, or therapist – stating that you have a disability and need to get out of your lease early because of your disability. Your landlord is usually not entitled to detailed medical records.
Quarantine and “shelter in place” can be a dangerous time for survivors of domestic violence.
If your home is unsafe for you because of domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, or sexual assault, and you live in government-subsidized housing like Section 8, public housing, or tax credit housing, you may have a right to transfer to a new apartment. The law that allows you to move for safety reasons is the Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”).
When you request the transfer, you may be required to provide verification in the form of:
If your home is unsafe for you because of domestic violence and you rent from a private landlord and pay full rent (you don’t have a government subsidy), you may be able to get out of your lease early if you need to move for safety reasons.
The Louisiana Violence Against Women Act (“LAVAWA”) covers “domestic abuse” which is abuse involving a family member, defined as a spouse, former spouse, parent, child, stepparent, stepchild, foster parent, and foster child. The law only covers you if you live in a property with six or more units, or ten or more units if the landlord lives there too. See La. Revised Statute 9:3261.1.
In order to move early, you must write your landlord a letter requesting to end the lease early and include a copy of:
The form referenced above is here: Sample LAVAWA certification form
You and the landlord must agree upon a day for you to move out. That day must be within 30 days of the landlord getting the letter you sent them asking to end the lease early.
If you have any questions or need further assistance go to our website (www.slls.org) or contact our COVID-19 AID HOTLINE at 1-844-244-7871.
Wondering how to talk to your landlord about this month's rent? Here is a script you can use that was developed by the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center and SLLS. Make sure any agreement you negotiate is in writing- text or email are fine.
Sample email/text to your landlord
Hi _____, I hope you are safe and healthy. I wanted to keep you updated about my situation. I have lost income/work/my job because of the COVID-19 crisis and cannot afford to pay my rent this month at this time. Would you be willing to:
1. Waive this month's late fees?
2. Agree not to evict me for not being able to pay this month's rent on time, and instead agree that we will work out a repayment agreement that works for both of us?
Most mortgage holders can qualify for a forbearance because of COVID-19. If you receive a forbearance from your lender, would you also be willing to not charge me rent for those months?
Thanks for your flexibility and understanding,
______________ [your name]
Optional things to add based on your comfort level:
(Note: You legally owe the full rent in your lease for this month. However, some landlords may be willing to re-negotiate the amount under the circumstances. However they are under no legal obligation to do so).
Would you be willing to reduce my rent to ________ for this month because that is what I can afford right now?
Would you be willing to waive this month's rent, or in the alternative, apply my security deposit to this month's rent? If you apply my security deposit I will agree to waive my right to claim my deposit at the end of the lease, and also agree to pay reasonable charges for damage above normal wear and tear after I move out.
Evictions are suspended for all tenants in Louisiana until at least June 15, 2020.
You still legally owe rent for this period of time, and you can be evicted for nonpayment when evictions restart. Even though evictions are banned, your landlord can still give you a Notice to Vacate (an eviction notice). However, if you don’t move, your landlord cannot force you to leave because they cannot file a court petition to evict right now.
Some tenants have additional protections. Under the federal stimulus law signed on March 27, 2020, there is a 120-day ban (until July 25th) on evictions for nonpayment, and the charging of late fees, for certain properties:
For these tenants, landlords cannot give you a notice to vacate for nonpayment until after the 120 days. After that they must give you a 30-day notice. If you receive an eviction notice before July 25th and you live in a covered property, you have a right to fight the eviction. Contact the Southeast Louisiana Legal Services COVID-19 Hotline at 1-844-244-7871.
How do I know if my landlord is covered by the 120-day ban?
If you live in government-subsidized housing, “affordable housing,” or housing where your rent changes based on your income, or if you have a Section 8 voucher, you are likely covered. It is harder to find out if your landlord has a federally-backed mortgage, but about 70% of single-family mortgages have federal involvement. You can try to look up whether your landlord has a mortgage in the public records (free in Orleans at http://www.orleanscivilclerk.com/onlinerecords.html). However, whether their loan is covered by the below programs may not be recorded. Your landlord may be able to tell you, and, if not, they can look up whether they have a Fannie/Freddie backed loan at one of these websites:
You can try to call these numbers yourself to find out about the loan (let them know you are a tenant and that you want to know if your landlord’s mortgage is covered by their government program):
Fannie Mae: 1-800-2FANNIE (1-800-232-6643)
Freddie Mac: 1-800-FREDDIE (1-800-373-3343)
Federal Housing Administration (FHA): 1-877-622-8525
Veterans Administration (VA): 1-877-827-3702
Dept. of Agriculture (USDA): 1-800-414-1226
All evictions of tenants with Section 8 vouchers or who live in public housing or other federally-subsidized housing are banned until July 25, 2020 (see first section of this FAQ).
The following Housing Authorities have said they are suspending Section 8 terminations during the COVID-19 crisis: Housing Authority of New Orleans, Housing Authority of Jefferson Parish (does not cover Kenner), St. Bernard Parish Dep’t of Housing, and St. Charles Parish Housing Authority. If a delayed hearing, inspection, or contract signing is causing you serious hardship or homelessness, call the Southeast Louisiana Legal Services COVID-19 Hotline at 1-844-244-7871.
You should pay your rent on time, or try to work out a payment plan with your landlord. Try to get any payment plan in writing. If your rental agreement says you will be charged fees for paying rent late, the landlord might charge you those fees if you do not pay on time. Even though your landlord cannot evict you now, if you don’t make arrangements to pay the rent and fees your landlord could evict you when courts reopen.
Under the federal stimulus law (“CARES” Act) signed on March 27, 2020, many taxpayers will receive a check for around $1,200, plus $500 per minor child, in the coming weeks.
If you live in the City of New Orleans, you rent from a private landlord, and you do not have a housing subsidy: You might qualify for rental assistance. Call the City of N.O. Office of Community Development at 504-658-4200.
If you lost income and live in Section 8, public, or other subsidized housing where your rent is based on your income, report any income loss right away. If the office is closed, try to email, text, or mail notice to your caseworker or landlord.** Keep a copy of any notice you sent for your records. Give notice even if you do not yet have all the documents they might need. Your rent should be reduced the first day of the month after you report a loss of income. Even if they are not able process your rent reduction now, timely reporting will affect the amount you owe later once they do process the change. If your landlord or the Housing Authority fails or refuses to reduce your rent, talk to an attorney. You can apply for free legal help by calling the Southeast Louisiana Legal Services COVID-19 Hotline at 1-844-244-7871.
** If you are a HANO Section 8 voucher holder, you can complete a self-certification form about your income loss available at http://www.hano.org/Tenants/Forms, and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have trouble reaching your worker, you can call (504) 670-3295.
It is very important that if you start getting new income, like unemployment benefits, that you report it and keep a record of reporting it.
It is illegal for your landlord to lock you out, throw your belongings out, or cut off your utilities without going through the court eviction process. Your landlord must get a court order to evict you. If your landlord is trying to physically remove you or your belongings from your home, you can call the police if you feel comfortable. The police should tell your landlord to stop. If your landlord tries to evict you without a court judgment, or to force you out by doing other things, seek the advice of an attorney immediately. You can apply for legal help by calling the Southeast Louisiana Legal Services COVID-19 Hotline at 1-844-244-7871.
If this happens, to you, seek the advice of an attorney immediately. You can apply for free legal help by calling the Southeast Louisiana Legal Services COVID-19 Hotline at 1-844-244-7871.
If you call the COVID-19 Hotline please leave a message.
Here are other numbers you can try if you have an emergency and do not receive a call back within 24 hours:
New Orleans area: 1-504-529-1000 x.223 (leave a message)
Baton Rouge area: 1-225-448-0080
Houma area: 1-985-851-5687
Hammond area: 1-985-345-2130
For a printable version of the flowchart, click here.