Division III: Unlawful Detainer Okay to Convert to Standard Civil Case Once Premises No Longer an Issue
Blah de blah landlord and tenant don’t get along. Landlord wants to evict the tenant, and brings an unlawful detainer action. She just moves out, which takes care of the unlawful detainer part. However, she countersued for damages, which the landlord didn’t respond to. She then takes what’s left of the case to mandatory arbitration, a way for claims to be resolved more efficiently (think of it like trial light, and with another lawyer from the community acting as judge and jury).
Anyhow, Young won in arbitration. The Barrs claimed the case was unlawful detainer and shouldn’t have been moved into mandatory arbitration. But, see, there was no longer an unlawful detainer going on at the time it was moved into arbitration, and the only thing left to decide was money, which was A-Okay:
The Barrs sued for unlawful detainer. While counterclaims are generally not allowed in such actions, a claim of retaliatory eviction may be allowed. See Port of Longview v. Int'I Raw Materials, Ltd., 96 Wn. App. 431, 979 P.2d 917 (1999) (allowing a commercial tenant to assert retaliatory eviction defense in an unlawful detainer action). But see Angelo, 167 Wn. App. at 815 (not allowing a counterclaim of constructive eviction where landlord's grounds in the unlawful detainer action involved allegations of using the property for unlawful activities and committing waste). Here, Ms. Young conceded her right to possession of the property before a hearing on the unlawful detainer. With the Barrs' assistance, Ms. Young voluntarily vacated the rental premises. Ms. Young never attempted to re-enter the premises. Ms. Young no longer sought to be restored with possession of the property and asked solely for damages.
. . . . Because the case was then purely a civil action, chapter 7.06 RCW applied. Thus, the trial court correctly ordered mandatory arbitration 6 No. 32432-0-111 BafT v. Young and did not abuse its discretion. It follows that the trial court did not abuse its discretion or err when it denied the Barrs' motion for reconsideration.