The opinion of the court was delivered by: BYERS
The complaint herein was filed on July 18, 1946, and alleges a violation of Section 4(a) of the Emergency Price Control Act of 1942, as amended, Title 50 U.S.C.A.Appendix, §§ 901-925, and a violation of Rent Regulation for Housing in New York City Defense-Rental Area, and seeks an injunction and treble damages.
The premises involved are 519 West 121st Street, New York City.
Paragraphs 5 of the complaint alleges that, during the period of one year prior to commencement of the action, defendants demanded and received rents higher than the maximum rents established by said Rent Regulation for the use and occupancy of said housing accommodations.
Paragraph 6 alleges: 'More than 30 days have elapsed since the occurrence of the aforementioned overcharges and the tenants so overcharged have not instituted any action for damages on account of such overcharges, pursuant to Section 205(e) of the Act.'
The case was tried on a stipulated statement of facts which may be summarized as follows:
Between August of 1944 and September of 1945, the defendants changed seven apartments in the said premises from unfurnished to furnished, and registration statements were mailed within 30 days after the said changes to the Lower Manhattan Area Rent Office at 535 Fifth Avenue in this City, instead of to the Upper Manhattan Area Rent Office at 541 West 145th Street.
There is no proof that such a mailing was legally insufficient because the division of the area was for convenience of administration; it would seem that a mailing to one of the Administrator's offices in the area, within 30 days from the actual period of rental, is all that the law requires.
The defendants do not concede that the testimony concerning the mailings would be relevant, or that they were in fact made. In the absence of testimony to the contrary, however, it is not deemed that there is any issue of fact in this connection.
Thereafter, pursuant to demands made by the Enforcement Division of the Office of Price Administration, a second set of registrations were mailed to the Lower Manhattan Area Rent Office, and these seem to have been forwarded to the Upper Manhattan Area Rent Office. That was done subsequent to the 30 days following the first rental.
The magic in this situation seemingly is that, if registrations had indeed been filed within 30 days after the first date of rental, the authority of the area rent director to reduce such rents would be limited to orders of prospective operation only; the area rent director, deeming the first registrations not to have been filed, and having ordered the filing of new ones, could make his orders retroactive to the first date of the original renting. It is this retroactive set of figures, multiplied by three, which the plaintiff relies upon in bringing suit.
On June 11, 1946, such retroactive orders were issued by the rent director, reducing the rentals of six of the seven apartments, and on June 19, 1946, similar action was taken with reference to the remaining apartment, and all of those ordered are deemed to be in evidence.
On July 11, 1946, the defendants submitted to the rent director a check (not certified) for the full amount of the overcharges according to the said orders, at the Upper Manhattan Area Rent Office; that is to say, a check in full for all the refunds together with a notice of departmental appeal from those orders; and the check was returned on July 16, 1946, but the reason for such return is in dispute: The plaintiff asserts that the check was returned because it was uncertified, while the defendants would have testified that the check was returned by some one in the office of the director, who stated that the OPA was not in control at that time and that the office did not know whether it had authority to accept the check.
The latter is a likely statement because the Emergency Price Control Act terminated on June 30, 1946, and between that date and July 25th there was a lapse in applicable regulatory legislation because the Extension Act of 1946 was passed on the latter date, and in many important respects it differed form the earlier law.
I am satisfied that on July 11, 1946, an attempt to procure a reconsideration of the said orders on departmental appeal was made, and although it was not properly followed up, it is consistent with a belief in the merits of the landlords' contentions. It is not clear that a departmental review would have been entirely unfavorable to the defendants, at least the Court can not so assume. What was attempted at least negatives any ...