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WOODS v. KIMMEY

January 31, 1950

WOODS
v.
KIMMEY



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GOURLEY

Tighe E. Woods, Housing Expediter, has brought suit for injunctive relief and as an adjunct thereof, for an order directing restitution of the overcharges made by the defendant to the tenants.

The action was instituted under Section 206(a) and 206(b) of the Housing and Rent Act of 1947, as amended, 50 U.S.C.A.Appendix, § 1881 et seq. Said Act expressly authorizes a suit by the United States, through the Housing Expediter, to obtain an order enjoining practices in violation of the Act or other order appropriate to the case.

 The competency of a Federal District Court to entertain such a suit must be looked for elsewhere. Fields v. Washington, 3 Cir., 173 F.2d 701.

 An expressed grant of jurisdiction is to be found in Title 28 U.S.C.A. § 1345, which provides: 'Except as otherwise provided by Act of Congress, the district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions, suits or proceedings commenced by the United States, or any other agency or officer thereof, expressly authorized to sue by Act of Congress.'

 A suit by the Housing Expediter for injunctive relief and restitution is one to enforce the laws of the United States in the public interest by restoring the status quo and is not a suit to award damages to the tenant. It involves an order of the type authorized by Section 206(b) of the Housing and Rent Act of 1947. The mere fact that it operates to confer a benefit on the tenant does not detract from its enforcement, effect or alter its nature. Woods v. Bomboy, 3 Cir., 1950, 179 F.2d 565.

 Accordingly this action may be brought under 28 U.S.C.A. § 1345 without regard to the amount involved.

 The various improvements, painting and repairs were made by the defendant at a time when the dwelling unit was unoccupied. Said changes and repairs were made on the basis of the defendant's own decision since she was interested in selling the premises. When the repairs were completed it was deemed advisable to again rent the premises since it was believed it would prove of practical advantage in securing prospective purchasers.

 The Expediter contends that since the services to the property were rendered prior to the time of renting to this tenant and before there was any landlord-tenant relationship established, the defendant under no circumstances should be permitted to saddle the costs of such work upon the tenants who rented the apartment subsequent thereto.

 The defendant admits that she received $ 30 a month from the tenant during the period September, 1947 to May, 1948, but she contends that $ 15 a month represented reimbursements to her of monies expended by her for labor in connection with painting and decorating, interior and exterior repairs, which expenditures had been incurred prior to the renting of the premises to this tenant.

 Question

 Did the monies received by the landlord each month over and above the sum of $ 15 constitute an overcharge under the Housing and Rent Act of 1947 and the Controlled Housing Rent Regulation?

 According to the registration $ 15 a month was the maximum legal rent in effect under the Emergency Price Control Act of 1942, as amended, 50 U.S.C.A.Appendix, § 901 et seq.

 The landlord was obligated to do the painting and decorating and to make repairs, in connection with her renting of the apartment for the $ 15 a month maximum legal rent, only to the extent of furnishing the materials therefor, and the work or labor was to be done by the tenant.

 We are confronted with a case where the landlord has gone ahead and provided not only the materials but also the labor for certain painting, repairs, etc., which she caused to be performed in and about these premises although, as far as the Housing and Rent Act and Regulations were concerned, she was not obligated to furnish the labor.

 Although the tenant and the landlord are in absolute disagreement as to what the understanding was when the premises was rented, it appears to me that the most reasonable evaluation of the facts is that the defendant intended that the rental of $ 30 per month was for the premises alone.

 This conclusion is reached for the reason that the receipts given by either the defendant or her representatives made no reference to $ 15 of the monthly payment being for rent and $ 15 reimbursement for the repairs which were made. The defendant further admits that the tenant was never informed as to the amount for which reimbursement was to ...


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