Hurricane Ida FAQ for Renters in Louisiana*

Posted on: September 1, 2021
The information provided on this post does not, and is not intended to, represent legal advice. All information available on this site is for general informational purposes only. If you need legal help, you should contact a lawyer. You may be eligible for our free legal services and can apply by calling our Disaster Legal Assistance Hotline at 1-844-244-7871 or applying online here.
Updated on: September 7, 2021

Today is September 1. Do I owe rent if I am out of my home due to the hurricane? Am I entitled to pay less rent if my house was damaged or is unlivable because of the hurricane?

Unfortunately, yes, you likely still owe rent. The law treats a hurricane as an “Act of God.” When you cannot use your home because of an Act of God, you may be able to get out of your lease (see below). But you cannot pay less rent. See Louisiana Civil Code article 2715: “If the impairment of the use of the leased thing was caused by circumstances external to the leased thing, the lessee is entitled to a dissolution of the lease, but is not entitled to diminution of the rent.”

Can my landlord evict me without going to court due to hurricane damage?

No. Your landlord must go to court to evict you. He or she should not force you to leave without an eviction order from the judge.

If you are evacuated you should let your landlord know that you are temporarily out of town due to the storm and have not abandoned the premises or moved out permanently. The best way to do this is in writing via text message or email so you can prove you notified them. If your landlord tries to call you, you should pick up the phone and let them know where you are. The law only allows a landlord to take possession of a unit without going to court if the property is abandoned. Typically this means that the property is empty of furnishings, no one appears to be living there for an extended period of time, and the keys are left or returned. See La. Code Civ. P. art. 4731(B). However after Katrina some landlords took advantage of this provision to claim that their tenant had "abandoned" the premises when they were just evacuated and illegally removed their belongings. So it is important to protect yourself by putting your landlord on written notice that you have not moved out and plan to return.

Your landlord may be liable for damages if they evict you without going through the court process.

What if my landlord will not repair hurricane damage?

 Tell your landlord in writing immediately of any storm damage that needs to be repaired. Text or email is fine to use for this. You should also take and send pictures if you can.

Your landlord is required to keep your home livable under Louisiana Civil Code art. 2691, unless your lease says you are the one who must make repairs. Contractors may be booked and unavailable for a while. This is not your landlord’s fault. But your landlord won’t make repairs that they can make to keep your home livable, you have three options:

  1. Get out of your lease early (See La Civ. Code 2013 or 2015)
  2. Repair and deduct (See La. Civ. Code art. 2694)
  3. Sue for damages (you will likely need a private attorney as legal aid cannot assist with this)

To “repair and deduct" you must write your landlord as to what repairs are needed. If your landlord does not make needed repairs in a reasonable time, you can make repairs yourself or hire someone to make them. Then, save the receipt and deduct it from your next month’s rent. Be sure to pay rent on time with a money order and attach a copy of the receipt. If your landlord won’t accept what you pay, keep the money order to show the judge in case your landlord tries to evict you. If you do these steps right, the judge should not let your landlord evict you for nonpayment of rent.

If the damage to your home is caused by a pre-storm issue with the property rather than an Act of God, you may be entitled to a reduced rent if use of your home is “substantially impaired.” See La. Civ. Code art. 2715. At least one court has said you cannot decide the amount to reduce the rent on your own. Instead you must either reach an agreement with your landlord about the amount or sue in court for a reduction.

Can my landlord ask me to leave so they can make repairs?

 Yes, your landlord can make you move if repairs cannot wait until the end of your lease. Louisiana Civil Code 2693 says:

If during the lease the thing requires a repair that cannot be postponed until the end of the lease, the lessor has the right to make that repair even if this causes the lessee to suffer inconvenience or loss of use of the thing.

When this happens, you might be entitled to pay less rent, or to end your lease, depending on all of the facts, including each party's fault or responsibility for the repair, how long the repair takes, and how much less the home can be used.

The landlord does not have to put you up in a hotel or pay for you to live somewhere else if you are out for a while for needed repairs. You can argue that you should not owe rent for the time you are out, or at least that you should owe less rent.*

*But if your lease says something different, your lease controls.

What if my lease is expired or I am month-to-month?

 If your lease is expired it becomes a month-to-month lease under Louisiana law, unless your lease says something different. Unless you live in certain government-funded housing, like Low Income Housing Tax Credit housing or public housing, your landlord does not need a reason to evict you at the end of your lease. They can evict you after written notice 10 days’ before the end of a month-to-month lease. They can eviction  after written notice 30 days before the end of a year lease (unless the lease requires more notice). This does not mean your landlord can just put you out. Your landlord still has to file an eviction in court if you do not move. He or she cannot put you out without an eviction judgment and a “warrant for possession” from a court. Click here for more information about the Louisiana eviction process.

Is my landlord allowed to evict me due to hurricane damage?

If your home is totally destroyed, your landlord can evict you in court after courts reopen. Under Louisiana Civil Code article 2714: “If the leased thing is lost or totally destroyed, without the fault of either party, or if it is expropriated, the lease terminates and neither party owes damages to the other.”*

Sometimes a home is only partially destroyed, like from a leak or broken window but it is still liveable. Sometimes a home is temporarily unlivable like for lack of electricity. For partial or temporary cases, your landlord cannot legally evict you. Under Louisiana Civil Code 2715: “If the impairment of the use of the leased thing was caused by circumstances external to the leased thing, the lessee is entitled to a dissolution of the lease.” In other words, YOU have a right to end your lease, but the landlord cannot end it.*

*Check your lease, because if your lease says something different than the law your lease will control here. Some leases have a “force majeure” clause that says what happens for a hurricane or other disaster.

What should I do if my landlord tries to wrongfully evict me?

A wrongful eviction is where your landlord changes the locks, cuts off your utilities, or removes your things from the property without going through court.

If your landlord is at your home threatening to, or is wrongfully evicting you and you feel comfortable doing so, you can call law enforcement and they should stop your landlord. You know your local law enforcement better than we do, and know whether this is safe and wise for you.

If you are in New Orleans you may be able to obtain assistance from the New Orleans Renter’s Rights Assembly’s emergency hotline at (504) 539-4504. (Please note that most groups have limited capacity now due to lack of power and evacuations).

If your income is low you may be able to access free legal assistance.

  • Southeast Louisiana (Southeast Louisiana Legal Services) - (504) 529-1000 x. 223 or slls.org (press 1 before the extension if you do not get through- messages can be left in any language).
  • Northern and western Louisiana (Acadiana Legal Services Corporation) -  (800)-256-1175 or la-law.org

Am I allowed to break my lease if my home is unlivable due to the hurricane?

If your home is not liveable due to the hurricane, you may be able to get out of your lease early.

Under Louisiana Civil Code 2715: “If the impairment of the use of the leased thing was caused by circumstances external to the leased thing, the lessee is entitled to a dissolution of the lease...” The impairment must be “substantial.”

If you plan to end your lease early, you should notify your landlord in writing why it is unliveable. Be sure to turn in the key or notify your landlord in writing where you left it. Take good pictures of the unit. If your landlord sues you later for breaking your lease, or reports a debt on your credit, contact a lawyer.

How do I get my security deposit back if I move out?

Once your lease has ended and you have completely vacated the unit your landlord has 30 days to either return your deposit or write to you why they are keeping it. If your unit was destroyed because of a hurricane or other Act of God you should get your deposit back. Your landlord can deduct from the security deposit for damage caused by you or your guests or for fees or rent you owe. When you move out you should take pictures of the unit. You should also try to have something to prove you returned the keys (text message or email works). You need to give your landlord a forwarding address (it does not have to be where you live, just a place you get mail). After the 30 days you can sue your landlord in small claims court for your deposit. You should also send your landlord a written letter as soon as you move out asking for the deposit back. If your landlord does not respond to your letter within 30 days of receiving it, you may be able to get three times your deposit back. You can find more information about the security deposit process here.

What should I do if I had an eviction scheduled in court for September?

The Governor has delayed all legal deadlines by 30 days in the parishes affected by Hurricane Ida. You do not have to respond to a suit for eviction or any other lawsuit until September 24.
It is safest to make sure any eviction court knows about this. You can view the order here.
If a constable or Sheriff tries to evict you anyway, or a court issues an eviction order, call Southeast Louisiana Legal Services to see if we can provide free legal help. (504) 529-1000 x. 223 or slls.org (press 1 before the extension if you do not get through- messages can be left in any language).

Can I get a lawyer?

Depending on your income you may be able to get free legal assistance.

  • Southeast Louisiana (Southeast Louisiana Legal Services) - (504) 529-1000 x. 223 or slls.org (press 1 before the extension if you do not get through- messages can be left in any language).
  • Northern and western Louisiana (Acadiana Legal Services Corporation) -  (800)-256-1175 or la-law.org

Please note that as of 9/1/2021 all Southeast Louisiana Legal Services offices are closed due to lack of electricity. The New Orleans office will reopen for walk-in appointments for rental housing issues on Friday, 9/10/2021.

Where can I find other resources on Louisiana landlord-tenant law?

You can get information on a many legal issues at https://louisianalawhelp.org/issues/housing

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