By Asia Simone Burns, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga
A candidate for the Georgia senate was arrested after reportedly breaking into her own home and moving back in after being evicted from it. The woman, however, claims she never should have been evicted in the first place.
Linda Pritchett, who is running to represent District 39 in a special Democratic primary Nov. 3, was arrested at the home in South Fulton on Friday. She is charged with first-degree burglary, obstructing an officer and criminal property damage, Fulton County Jail records show.
According to a South Fulton police report obtained by AJC.com, an officer was “flagged down by a citizen” on Aug. 31 “in reference to an owner versus tenant dispute.” Four days later, the police department took the senate candidate into custody.
Pritchett said she was “maliciously prosecuted and charged excessively” when South Fulton police arrived at her home Friday afternoon. She said the incident stems from a dispute over who owns the property.
“This is a situation where my house was wrongfully foreclosed,” she told AJC.com.
The legal battle dates to 2018. In November of that year, Pritchett filed a complaint against several companies, including Main Street Renewal, alleging they foreclosed on the home improperly and prematurely without giving her room to dispute it.
“(The) defendants have acted in bad faith, have been stubbornly litigious and have put (the) plaintiff through unnecessary trouble and expense,” the complaint said.
The company alleged Pritchett breached a contract by failing to pay more than $33,000 she owed in back rent by an agreed-upon date in February of this year. That was grounds for eviction, Main Street Renewal claimed in a court motion, and they asked the Fulton Superior Court to grant permission to evict Pritchett on Feb. 7.
Pritchett appealed the case, but on May 13, a Superior Court Judge sided with Main Street Renewal and signed an order that granted them possession of the home and the right to remove Pritchett.
The case was again under appeal when the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office went to the home Aug. 27 and evicted Pritchett, documents show.
The incident itself comes after the CDC imposed a national moratorium on evictions in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The moratorium protects those who are not able to make rent or housing payments from being evicted. It is not clear if the order explicitly protects Pritchett from being evicted.
“Nothing in this order precludes evictions based on a tenant, lessee, or resident: (5) violating any other contractual, obligation, other than the timely payment of rent or similar housing-related payment (including non-payment or late payment of fees, penalties or interest),” the order said.
Main Street Renewal said when a representative went to clean the home, “(Pritchett) had broken back into the property and moved (her) possessions back inside.”
Pritchett said she did not believe the company could evict her due to the CDC’s moratorium or while litigation was pending. She said she was reclaiming property that was already hers.
“The Georgia Supreme Court says a person who believes they have a claim can take possession of a home as long as they do not breach the peace,” Pritchett said, citing Clower v. Maynard.
On Thursday, Main Street Renewal asked the court to reinforce the eviction by sending the sheriff’s office to serve another order. However, a judge ruled that was not necessary.
“If, as alleged by (Main Street Renewal), (Pritchett) after being dispossessed broke into the property and moved their belongings back in, they became intruders,” the Fulton County judge wrote. “With respect to the removal of intruders, the law provides property owners with a legal remedy that does not require obtaining a writ of possession.”