were delivered to the addressee of said letters, which addressee is the defendant in this proceeding.
The defendant testified that the rental charged for the premises at 412 Atwood Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on March 1, 1942, was $ 27 per month, and that the rental for the premises at 230 Meyran Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was $ 50 per month, on March 1, 1942. It is contended by the defendant that since the rental charged during the period from May 1, 1943 to and including May, 1945, for the premises at 230 Meyran Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was $ 47.50 per month, and the rental charged for the premises at 412 Atwood Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for the period from July 1, 1942, to and including May, 1945, was $ 27 per month, that said rental charges were either on the same basis or lower than the rental which existed on March 1, 1942.
Although the defendant contended that the rental charged on March 1, 1942, for the premises at 230 Meyran Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was $ 50 per month, a rental charge of $ 47.40 per month was charged due to the fact that the tenant agreed to supervise the firing of the furnace in said dwelling, and in consideration thereof, was given an adjustment of $ 2.50 per month on the rental which was to be paid.
Under the Regulations which apply to the maximum rental which it was permissible to charge for any dwelling unit, the Area Rent Director decided that the fair and reasonable rental for the premises at 230 Meyran Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was $ 45 per month, and the fair and reasonable rental for the premises at 412 Atwood Street, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was $ 25 per month. These orders were issued by the Area Rent Director subsequent to the time that the defendant filed the registration of the rental value of said premises.
Since said orders were duly addressed to the defendant and deposited in the United States mail, and in view of the statement of one of the tenants that said notice was received by him and discussed with the said defendant, the Court has no alternative other than to find that said notices had been duly received. In addition thereto, the defendant on three different occasions discussed with the Area Rent Director, his legal representatives, and subordinate employees, the reasonableness of the rentals which were being charged. It appears to me that it was necessary for the defendant to secure information through one source or the other that the rentals which were being charged were not correct, or the conferences referred to would not have been held.
Although the defendant contends that statements were made which left the impression that the rentals which were being charged did not violate the Regulation, it is a well settled principle of law that a real estate owner is not entitled to rely upon the unofficial oral advice given by an employee of the Office of Price Administration. At first blush this may seem harsh but obviously the Administrator cannot be bound by various oral interpretations which happen to be made by his hundreds, perhaps thousands, of employees in violation of regulations. The Administrator has prescribed a reasonable procedure by which persons subject to the regulations may obtain official interpretations or information by which all will be bound and, therefore, an individual who sells merchandise is not entitled to rely on unofficial interpretations. Wells Lamont Corp. v. Bowles, Price Administrator, Em.App., 149 F.2d 364; Utah Power and Light Co. v. United States, 243 U.S. 389, 37 S. Ct. 387, 61 L. Ed. 791.
In view of the foregoing, I can reach no conclusion other than that the actions of the defendant were both willful and the result of failure to exercise practicable precautions to comply with the Regulation as to the maximum rental which it was permitted to be charged for each of the dwelling units.
The defendant has continued to charge in excess of the maximum legal rent up until the time of trial and, under the circumstances, I believe that judgment should be entered in favor of the Office of Price Administration on behalf of the United States against the defendant, R. P. Alexander, Jr., doing business as Alexander Real Estate Company, for treble the amount of the overcharge together with the costs of this proceeding.
It is necessary that the defendant realizes in the future that he must comply with all rules and regulations adopted by the Office of Price Administration, which would govern the leasing of premises in the Pittsburgh Rental-Defense Area, and it is, therefore, the belief of the Court that the request of the Government for injunctive relief should be granted.
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