Editor’s note: This story was published in 2015. It has been updated to reflect the latest information.
Whether it’s a crazy landlord, multiple flooding incidents, or a traumatic encounter with the incongruously named palmetto bug, almost every New Orleans renter has a nightmare to share. While it's hard to say how horrors like those could have been prevented (crazy landlords, especially, always seem cool at first) there are some things you should know before renting that can help protect you in the long-run. Below are 12 things you should know about renting in New Orleans, from Louisiana laws to good ol' common sense.
- Word of mouth is often your best bet when it comes to finding an apartment. The best deals tend not to surface on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. So if you’re moving here from across the country, mobilize what network you have—coworkers, friends and family, that friendly bartender at Molly’s—to snag a sweet place. If that doesn’t work, there’s always the time-tested method of beating the pavement. Plenty of old-school New Orleans landlords stick a “For Rent” sign in the window and call it a day.
2. URLTA Protections (or Lack Thereof). Louisiana has not adopted the Uniform Residential Landlord-Tennant Act, which was created as model legislation by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws in 1972. This means that tenants have less leverage in Louisiana when it comes to landlord dealings. A bill aimed at strengthening the rights of tenants was proposed in 2014, but nothing came of it.
3. Evictions. In Louisiana, if you are a month-to-month tenant your landlord can evict you for no reason, but he or she has to give you 10 days notice. If you break your lease terms, like by not paying rent, your landlord only has to give you a five-day notice to move out.
4. What happens if my apartment is damaged in a flood, storm or fire? This is especially pertinent in New Orleans, which is susceptible to hurricanes and flooding. If your property is damaged because of any of those things you are not responsible, and you have the right to terminate your lease (if you're responsible for the flood or fire then you're on your own). However, you are responsible for any of your stuff that's damaged. Which brings us to our next point ...
5. Get renters insurance! Seriously. New Orleans is a high-crime city that's also prone to natural disasters. And because many rentals are in very old buildings, there can be electrical fires. If you have valuable possessions, protect them.
6. Bugs and pests. Another common problem in our tropical city is the ubiquity of bugs and other critters. When you move in, inspect your property thoroughly and, besides taking note of any flaws in the property that could be problematic, take note if there's a cockroach or any other kind of infestation. At that point your landlord might be able to take care of it, but once you're in there for awhile, a bug problem might be due to lack of cleanliness and therefore your fault. If you have termites, that's definitely the property owner's responsibility.
7. Lead-based paint. Per the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992, your landlord must provide you with the EPA-approved "Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home" pamphlet, provide any records and reports on lead-based paint and/or lead-based paint hazards which are available, and provide an attachment to the lease (or language inserted in the lease itself) which includes a Lead Warning Statement and confirms that landlord has complied with all notification requirements.
8. Repairs. Louisiana law says landlords are required to make necessary repairs (structural repairs, heating, plumbing, etc.). If your landlord neglects to make these necessary repairs, you may be able to cancel the lease (but talk to a lawyer before withholding rent). You can do the repairs yourself and get reimbursed, as long as you can prove the repair was necessary, your landlord failed to act in a reasonable amount of time, and the cost of the repair was not exorbitant.
9. Bad neighbors? If your neighbor is not one of your landlord's tenants, it's not their problem. If he or she is, and they are doing something that interferes with your "peaceful possession" of the property (like having a dog that barks all night, all-night ragers, selling drugs or operating an illegal short-term rental), then your landlord has a duty to do something about it. (Does having a batshit landlady count as violation your peaceful occupation?)
10. Speaking of short-term rentals (STRs), it’s legal for you to Airbnb a spare bedroom provided that your neighborhood is zoned for STRs (check here—STRs are outlawed in the Garden District and most of the French Quarter) and that you procure written permission from your landlord. This note must be attached to your STR license application. Alternately, if you suspect people in your building of operating an illegal STR, you can report them here.
11. Security deposits. In Louisiana, your landlord must return your security deposit within a month of you moving out unless you damaged the property beyond "normal wear and tear." Some examples of normal wear and tear include a worn carpet, flooring, walls that have small dings in them, or small holes in screens. Not normal wear and tear? Broken windows, holes in walls, leaving trash in your apartment and in general, leaving the place super gross.
12. One final fact. If either you or your landlord dies, that does not dissolve the lease agreement. You or your landlord's heirs are still bound by the agreement.
If you are being discriminated against when it comes to housing, call the Louisiana Attorney General's Fair Housing Hotline: 1-800-273-5718.
· Landord-Tenant Laws [New Orleans Bar Association]
· Louisiana Landlord-Tenant Law [Loyola University Law School]
· A Guide to Louisiana Landlord & Tenant Laws [Louisiana Department of Justice Office of the Attorney General]