I am in a dispute over a commercial property--a coffee shop--in which I was also residing (landlord was aware of this, as she is my former residential landlord at another property which I vacated at the expiration of the term).
I got behind in rent, and the landlord locked me out of the property when I was out of town for a few days, and she has continued to deny me access, indicating that she is going to hold my property until such time as I resolve the delinquency. It has been about 8 weeks now since I was locked out of the property. She has not filed an eviction/disposessory. I spoke with the locksmith over the telephone as he was changing the locks, and he refused to cease and desist--despite my plea to him that his actions were furthering an illegal eviction.
I have been advised by my (somewhat lackluster) counsel that she intends to file a disposessory in the coming weeks. My opinion is that this evidences my lawful possession of the property until such time as I am evicted through a legal proceeding, and that I cannot possibly face criminal sanction for entering upon the premises (i.e., my premises) for the purpose of gaining access to my property (i.e., to collect my business equipment and personal belongings, which are of considerable value). I am seeking confirmation or rebuttal to this position, so that I may more confidently proceed.
Also, I am seeking a legal opinion as to what relief I may be entitled to under Georgia law, and whether laches applies in this case, when I have attempted to assert my rights by repeatedly requesting access. Also, the landlord is a prominent figure in a very small community, and I had difficulty timely obtaining counsel due to this fact.
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