Here in Louisiana as is the case in many states there is no “self-help” with regard to Landlords evicting an unworthy, lease breaching tenant. Evictions can be a prickly subject and even more difficult when you have a tenant who will simply not vacate the property. When it comes to commercial property and leases, there are very strict rules that must be followed in order to have a tenant kicked out.
Eviction proceedings are ones that are considered summary proceedings here in Louisiana. These are ones that can be conducted much faster than an ordinary proceeding. See La C.C.P. art. 2591. Unfortunately this is not always the case and the Judge may use his discretion to retard the progress of the action.
Depending on the type of lease that Landlord and Tenant will determine how the lease may be terminated and eviction proceeding started. Termination of a lease is governed by La C.C.P. art. 4701 et seq. A helpful aspect for a Landlord to put into his lease, is that La C.C.P. art. 4701 notice is waived, therefore the Landlord will be able to institute eviction proceedings immediately upon default or termination of the lease.
The law has specific definitions for all the parties involved with a lease and eviction. These definitions are spelled out in the code at La C.C.P. art 4704. Terms such as Lease, Lessee, Lessor, Occupant, Owner and Premises are literally spelled out by the code. This is helpful to determine who the parties are.
If the Landlord is awarded possession of the premises by a court, and the tenant does not remove itself from the premises, then a Warrant will be issued to have the sheriff remove the tenant from the premises. This is a very serious penalty. See La C.C.P. arts 4731 and 4733 for more on this procedure.
Landlord / Tenant relationships can be very frictional at times. Most of the time the parties get along and there are not issues. In the small majority of the time where there are disputes, the lease will control. Further, the eviction proceeding is where the parties will have their day in court. I have dealt with a number of lease disputes here recently, and none are easy by the time they get to me. Its important to have a good working lease and take into account the rules to get the tenant out.
Here at Wolfe Law Group, I have been blogging a lot lately on liens for both public and private projects (See other posts here). Anytime a property is owned by and arm of the state then you are dealing with a public project. Although, this seems simple, many contractors do not always see the connection. The reason why so many disputes are happening now is because public projects have dominated in the years of the poor economy. Contractors on these projects need to know the rules so that they can get paid. (see La. R.S. §38:2241 et seq.)
Since the state owns the land, there are no security devices, such as a lien that can attach to the land and call for its foreclosure in the event of default or non-payment. Therefore the state has come up with its own security device to give contractors and laborers a way to collect when not receiving payment. Here we have the Louisiana coined term: Sworn Statement of Amount Due. La. R.S. §38:2242. This document needs to be filed by the subcontractor or laborer within 45 days of when the work was accepted by the government body overseeing the project. Id.
One way for a contractor who has a sub on any tier below it to cancel the Sworn Statement of Amount Due filed, is to “bond off” the lien. La R.S. §38:2242.2. This mechanism allows for the higher tier contractor to provide security or cash at an amount 125% of the total lien. Id. At this juncture the property will be clear but there will be evidence of the bonded off lien still held with the parish mortgage office. This is pretty common practice so that higher tier companies keep the bond free while settling disputes with subs.
If at the end of the 45 day window from the state agency signing off on full completion of the project there are still any claims remaining as unpaid, then the state, claimants, or contractors may file a concursus proceeding to have the funds distributed into the registry of the court so that the parties can fight about who deserves the funds. La R.S. §38:2243. Any party may file this action, and its a very powerful tool. This is why many of the contractors will use the mechanism to “bond off” the claims, so as to prevent this process.
Finally, every parties favorite section is where attorney fees are awarded. In the Public Works Act, by statute attorney fees are permissible. This gives all parties the confidence to fight thinking that they will recover the fees. Unfortunately, recovery of attorney fees is still a difficult chore even when there is a statute. Here, La R.S. §38:2246 allows for attorney fees to any claimant who timely and properly filed its claim and recovers the full amount of the claim asserted. The reason for the emphasis in the proceeding sentence, is due to the difficulty of getting exactly what you swore was due. Claimants should be as accurate as possible when asserting claims, otherwise this statute will not apply.
The above are just a few of the many nuances contained and embedded in the Louisiana Public Works Act. Each step of the process should be carefully traversed so that the contractor does not lose rights to collect if/when the general contractor or public entity runs out of funding.
Attention all home owners or property owners, there is only one surefire way to have that annoying illegal lien (in Louisiana called a statement of claim and privilege) removed from the title of your property, a Mandamus action. In Louisiana and other states, a Mandamus can be used for a number of things (listed out in La R.S. §44:114) and it is a summary proceeding, meaning that it should go faster than ordinary litigation.
The Louisiana Private Works Act codified in La. R.S. §9:4801 et seq., is the origin of the rules which govern construction liens for private projects in this state. The specific statue that allows for an individual to request a Court to order the Clerk of Court to cancel a lien is La. R.S. §9:4833. The statute reads in pertinent part:
If a statement of claim or privilege is improperly filed or if the claim or privilege preserved by the filing of a statement of claim or privilege is extinguished, an owner or other interested person may require the person who has filed a statement of the claim or privilege to give a written request for cancellation in the manner provided by law directing the recorder of mortgages to cancel the statement of claim or privilege from his records.” La. R.S. §9:4833(A).
The best part about this statute is that if all of the proper notice requirements are followed and the illegal lien is not removed from the mortgage records by other means than this Mandamus proceeding, the property owner who brings the Mandamus suit is entitled to attorney fees and costs. This is huge because, this type of proceeding can cost a homeowner thousands just in legal fees. Here at Wolfe Law Group, we charge a flat rate of $3,500 for this type of proceeding, which covers all things from notices, to the actual Mandamus suit, to the trial.
Liens can be very technical and there are many instances where the letter of the law is not followed. In those instances, an owner can have the lien removed and even against the will of the party who filed the lien. As a contractor, filing a lien is very important to preserve rights against parties it did not contract with who may be liable for payment. Here at Wolfe Law Group we file liens all the time, but if your are like most contractors, funds are short and hiring an attorney can be too costly. Companies like Zlien.com are excellent resources for all things related to liens. Fortunately for lawyers and unfortunately for services like Zlien.com, enforcement of a lien and/or a Mandamus suit for removal of an illegal lien can only be filed by an attorney (or individual if self represented). I recently posted a Petition for Mandamus recently drafted and filed by Wolfe Law Group on JDSupra.com.
Bottom line: owners should file suit to have illegal liens removed from the mortgage records. If not then selling or refinancing the property will be impossible with the cloudy title. If you file suit and receive a judgment then you will be entitled to attorney fees and costs, which are provided by statute.
The ABA Journal published an article last week about an Altman Weil Survey finding that 95% of law firms plan to increase fees by an average of 4%. Yikes!
Specifically, the article, quoting a report from Reuters, states:
Almost all of the law firms responding to a survey by consultant Altman Weil Inc. are planning to raise their fees this year, if they haven’t already…The median increase in fees, compared to 2010, is 4 percent.
Wolfe Law Group is proud that it has never – I repeat, never – raised its rate on a client. In fact, we made a point of this at the turn of the year this past January, when we posted on our blog that 2011 Marks Sixth Year Wolfe Law Group Refuses To Raise Rates.
We’ve said it a thousand times: Wolfe Law Group is different. When we make an agreement with our clients, we stick to it.
I’m a bit late to the party here, but I hope all of my readers had a great holiday and are getting the new year off to a great start. Personally, I took a little time away from work (and away from blogging) to go over some big picture goals for my practice and life, and to just take the downtime to hit reset.
With that said, me and everyone else at Wolfe Law Group are back in the saddle and we’re very excited about 2011.
Another year crossed off the calendar, and Wolfe Law Group clients can rest easy knowing that their legal fees will not increase. On January 1, 2011, our firm celebrated its 6th consecutive year of not raising its billing rates on client.
Think we’re going out of our way to brag about this? Think again. It’s almost a tradition in the legal profession for firms to annual raise rates on their clients. It’s perhaps one reason why corporate counsel across America are frustrated and claim law firms are just too profitable.
We’ve said it a thousand times: Wolfe Law Group is different. Is your company ready for an attorney/client relationship that appreciates you? That’s focused on results? That understands the bottom line?
Happy New Year to our clients. And don’t worry – at Wolfe Law Group, we’re sticking to our original agreement with you.