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Barr v. Young

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 3

April 14, 2015

W.L. " Lee" Barr et al., Appellants,
v.
Bonita " Nita" I. Young, Respondent

Page 948

Appeal from Yakima Superior Court. Docket No: 11-2-03689-7. Judge signing: Honorable Susan L Hahn. Judgment or order under review. Date filed: 03/19/2014.

W.L. Barr and Susan C. Barr, pro se.

Howard N. Schwartz, for respondent.

Authored by Stephen M. Brown. Concurring: Robert E. Lawrence-Berrey, Laurel H. Siddoway.

OPINION

Page 949

Brown, J.

[187 Wn.App. 106] [¶1] -- W.L. " Lee" Barr and Susan C. Barr appeal the trial court's judgment on an arbitration award favoring their former tenant, Bonita " Nita" Young. The Barrs, who sued for unlawful detainer, mainly contend the court erred in referring Ms. Young's damages counterclaims to mandatory arbitration. Because premise possession issues had been resolved, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in effectively converting the remaining counterclaims into a civil suit when referring the case to mandatory arbitration. Accordingly, we affirm.

FACTS

[¶2] In 2011, the Barrs and Ms. Young entered into a one-year lease in which the Barrs were the landlords and [187 Wn.App. 107] Ms. Young the tenant. Issues between the Barrs and Ms. Young arose shortly after Ms. Young began her tenancy. The Barrs claimed Ms. Young willfully destroyed their property. On September 3, 2011, Ms. Young permitted Mr. Barr to enter the house to repair the kitchen sink and a screen door. But Mr. Barr additionally installed wooden window dowels that prevented anyone from opening the windows more than a few inches and he nailed the bathroom window shut. While Mr. Barr asserted the dowels were necessary for safety and security, the Barrs had complained Ms. Young left the windows wide open. Upon discovering the dowels, Ms. Young contacted the Yakima Police Department. An officer advised Ms. Young the dowels created a safety issue and needed to be removed. After removing the dowels herself because Mr. Barr refused to do so, Ms. Young received a letter from Mr. Barr threatening criminal prosecution. The Barrs also alleged other lease violations related to policies for pets, smoking, occupancy limits, and parking.

[¶3] In early September 2011, the Barrs unsuccessfully tried to terminate the tenancy, then sued Ms. Young for unlawful detainer on October 14, 2011. Ms. Young answered and counterclaimed on October 20, 2011, asserting her eviction was retaliatory and seeking damages. In early November 2011, prior to any hearing, Ms. Young began looking for a new place to live; she voluntarily vacated the rental house on December 1, 2011. The Barrs' attorney in this matter withdrew from representing them on December 1, 2011. On December 23, 2011, upon failure to receive a reply to Ms. Young's answer, Ms. Young moved for an order of default. The Barrs, pro se, responded on January 13, 2012, partly indicating they had recovered the premises and asserting the unlawful detainer should be dismissed.

[¶4] In August 2012, Ms. Young successfully petitioned to move the case to mandatory arbitration. Although the Barrs formally objected, the arbitration hearing was held after due notice on December 18, 2012; the Barrs did not [187 Wn.App. 108] appear. The arbitrator awarded Ms. Young $4,463.67 for damages. The Barrs requested a trial de novo on January 2, 2013, but apparently failed to pay necessary jury fees. On February 7, 2014, the court converted Ms. Young's arbitration award to a money judgment against the Barrs. The

Page 950

court denied the Barrs' motion for reconsideration. The ...


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