LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – News 10 gets daily calls and complaints from renters about housing problems across Acadiana. But what rights do tenants actually have in Louisiana? News Ten’s Rodricka Taylor investigated what renters can do when they have a problem with their landlords.

Marc Roark is the Louisiana Outside Counsel of Health and Ethics Endowed Professor at Southern University Law Center. He said tenants have the right to demand from their landlord certain repairs be made to the premises when those repairs interfere with that basic right of habitability.

As for the landlord, he said the most meaningful right is generally the right to collect rent and the ability to reclaim the property through eviction proceedings if the tenant fails to pay rent.

“If the landlord fails to make those repairs within 14 days then the tenant can proceed to make those repairs themselves and deduct the amount from their rental obligation,” said Roark.

As a renter, Roark said to be alert of whether the landlord has put any of these obligations on the tenant to make repairs themselves and if there’s a clear basis for giving notice of when those repairs should be made.

“If they want to stay in the apartment they’re probably going to have to find a way of working with the landlord either by exercising that remedy of repairs themselves and deducting the rent or convincing the landlord to carry out the repairs and make the premises safe and habitable,” he said.

News 10 spoke with Ivan Martin, who is a tenant at Ortego Apartments in Grand Coteau. Martin shared he has been in his apartment for seven years. He claims to have problems with mold, electrical issues, and additional flooring issues that haven’t been addressed by management.

In dealing with the mold in his place he said a doctor informed him the respiratory issues, chronic fatigue, and heart issues he was having were due to the “toxic” mold.

“I got an attorney. She sent a submission letter to them demanding what we want to have done,” said Martin. “When you’re dealing with landlords, they don’t care about anything but the rent being paid,” stated Martin.

He said the apartment was recently purchased by new owners about four and a half years ago. Since then, he gave them a list of repairs that needed to be done. He said up until about two weeks ago, nothing was addressed. When things finally started to get done, Martin said he was told the repairs in his place were excessive and they needed to move him out to do the repairs but they only gave him an option of moving into a one-bedroom, which is one less bedroom than his current apartment has, or moving off the property.

“What are we going to do with the stuff that can not fit in the one bedroom? They said you would have to put it in storage and you pay for it yourself which I told them no. I don’t think that’s right being these are issues that you should have addressed years ago,” said Martin. “I’m very familiar with the landlord-tenant act, and it makes me feel like the tenant has no rights.”

News 10 reached out to management.

“Ortego Apartments is working with a local contractor to fix all issues in our apartments.  The contractor has been working on site for the past two weeks. We have offered temporary one-bedroom apartments with additional onsite storage free of charge to tenants that need to move out of their apartments for repairs to be completed,” stated Jennifer Holder from management.

Southern University Clinic Program

The staff is available Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. for assistance. Call 225-465-5700 or email clinicapplications@sulc.edu.

Here are some links and a PDF to explain more rights as a tenant:

https://ldh.la.gov/assets/oph/Center-PHCH/Center-CH/infectious-epi/EpiManual/MoldComplaints/AGguideToLandlordTenantLaw.pdf

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/overview-landlord-tenant-laws-louisiana.html

https://www.probono.net/oppsguide/organization.757512-Acadiana_Legal_Service_Corporation

https://law.loyno.edu/centers/law-clinic-center-social-justice

https://slls.org/