My first year practicing in UnJustice Court was difficult. I read the Arizona Residential Landlord Tenant Act repeatedly and showed up to court ready to argue my case. Each time, I was met with resistance from the Judges regarding counterclaims. According to each Judge, counterclaims are not allowed in eviction actions due to non-payment of rent or because these proceedings are meant to be “speedy” and counterclaims will prolong the termination of the lease and removal of mothers with children to the streets (not in those words).
Yet the ARLTA does allow for counterclaims stemming from material breaches of the lease; it is not precluded simply because the action is for non-payment of the rent. In fact, most of the eviction actions include other claims in addition to non-payment.
SO, how do you deal with this? File your answer and your counterclaim and demand that the Judge rule on it. Make sure he states in open court that the counterclaim(s) are dismissed or are not proper for whatever reason. This allows you to file a Complaint in Superior Court, if your damages are over $10,000 as I’m sure they will be. No issue or claim preclusion because you were unable to file your claim at the time of the initial action.
Sue them in a court where all of the Judges went to law school, instead of UnJustice Court where they were “elected” and then trained by eviction lawyers.
Good luck and Godspeed!!