LEGAL CORNER: How do I get my sister to pay rent on a home we inherited?

Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 12:14 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Legal Corner answers viewers’ civil legal questions.

QUESTION: My sister and I co-own our deceased mother’s home. She has been living there for almost five years since our mother’s death. My mother had no will. Back on April 1, a judge ordered my sister to pay me rent. She refuses. It’s 85 days past due. What can I do?

ANSWER: We really need more information for a complete answer (i.e. was a succession done? Why did a court order the sister to pay rent? How did the sister come by possession of the property? Etc.).

Usually, all co-owners have the right to possess co-owned property and do not have to pay other co-owners rent. So, there must have been an exception to this case since the viewer somehow obtained a court order to receive rent from a “co-owner.”

Assuming that the court ordered rent is a valid order, the usual remedy for non-payment of rent is eviction. If eviction is not available in this situation, then perhaps contempt of court for non-payment would work. Punishment for contempt usually includes a short period to catch up the debt under a threat of going to jail, plus attorney fees.

If the siblings are truly co-owners, then one of them could force a sale of the property through a process called partition by licitation. When co-owners do not agree on how to own property together, one of them can force a sale, have the property sold, and split the proceeds in whatever way is fair. Pertinent statutes on licitation appear below.

La. Civil Code Art. 811. Partition by licitation or by private sale

A. When the thing held in indivision is not susceptible to partition in kind, the court shall decree a partition by licitation or, as provided in Paragraph B of this Article, by private sale and the proceeds shall be distributed to the co-owners in proportion to their shares.

B. In the event that one or more of the co-owners are absentees or have not consented to a partition by private sale, the court shall order a partition by private sale and shall give first priority to the private sale between the existing co-owners, over the sale by partition by licitation or private sale to third parties. The court shall order the partition by private sale between the existing co-owners as identified in the conveyance records as of the date of filing for the petition for partition by private sale. The petition for partition by private sale shall be granted first priority, and the sale shall be executed under Title IX of Book VII of the Code of Civil Procedure.

(See Louisiana Civil Code Article 815)

Art. 815. Partition by licitation

When a thing is partitioned by licitation, a mortgage, lien, or privilege that burdens the share of a co-owner attaches to his share of the proceeds of the sale.

QUESTION: I own some houses that I am getting ready to place on the market for rent and am concerned as to whether landlords are required to provide smoke detectors to tenants?

ANSWER: The short answer is yes. Effective Jan. 1, 2011, Louisiana Revised Statute 40:1581 provides that all existing one- or two-family dwellings at the time of sale or lease shall contain, at a minimum, an operable 10-year, sealed lithium battery smoke detector. Failure to do so could result in a misdemeanor summons from the State Fire Marshall’s office. There could also be local building codes and ordinances that could come into play.

Louisiana Revised Statute 40:1581

Smoke detectors; one- or two-family dwellings

A. Effective January 1, 2011, all existing one- or two-family dwellings at the time of sale or lease, shall contain, at a minimum, an operable ten-year, sealed lithium battery smoke detector.

Louisiana Revised Statute 40:1591. Enforcement of Part

A. The enforcement personnel of the state fire marshal shall enforce this Part and all other laws under the jurisdiction of the state fire marshal and other lawful orders of the state fire marshal, the violation of which would constitute a misdemeanor offense. The state fire marshal may delegate some or all of such enforcement authority to the chief of a fire department of a political subdivision and his authorized representatives. This enforcement authority shall include the power to issue misdemeanor summons.

B. The law enforcement officers of each political subdivision of the state shall enforce this Part and all other laws under the jurisdiction of the state fire marshal and other lawful orders of the state fire marshal.

Acts 1991, No. 33, §1

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