Monday Jan 17, 2022

Louisiana Real Estate Laws: What You Need to Know as a Homeowner

State legal systems in the United States are based on one of two legal systems. Forty-nine states base their laws on the common law system, which was first used in England.

However, one state, Louisiana, uses the French Napoleonic Code as the basis for its legal system. While common law-based legal systems rely on judges’ rulings to set precedents that are used to make subsequent decisions, the Louisiana system does not.

The Napoleonic Code was intended to simplify the laws at a time when many people were illiterate or did not have access to printed information. Ironically, the effort to create a simpler and easier to understand legal system has resulted in one of the most complex and least understood sets of state laws here in Louisiana.

There are many other distinctions between the two systems, but it is not as important to know each of the distinctions as it is to understand that there are significant differences between Louisiana state laws and those of most other states.

Real Estate Law Basics

Real estate laws are the laws that address land and anything built on that land, including the ownership, use, and transfer of ownership of that land. As mentioned above, Louisiana’s unique legal inheritance has affected current laws in many ways. One of those forms is the term used to refer to real estate in this state. While the rest of the United States uses “real property” in legal documents, in Louisiana real property is called “real property.”

Inheritance and “forced heirs”

Another area that requires special attention is that of heritage within Louisiana. Laws regarding inheritance derived from the Napoleonic Code were intended to ensure that assets remained in their family of origin, so while the other 49 states allow property to be transferred as the owner prefers after their death, this one does not it is always the case in Louisiana.

Laws regarding real estate inheritance may dictate that close relatives, including parents or children, inherit the property before anyone else.

Community property or separate property?

Louisiana real estate laws separate ownership of property into two categories:

  • community property
  • Separate property

While the difference between two distinctions may initially seem apparent, upon closer inspection the line becomes less clear. For example, once a couple marries, all property does not automatically become community property, and in the event of a divorce, one of the spouses may not have any claims or rights to certain properties. Some of the factors considered in this situation are when the property was purchased and what party funds were used, which can be a difficult fact to determine.

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