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UNITED STATES v. RAFAIL

January 29, 1953

UNITED STATES
v.
RAFAIL et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GOURLEY

This is a non-jury trial based upon alleged rent overcharges in violation of Section 206(a) of the Housing and Rent Act of 1947, as amended, 50 U.S.C.A.APPENDIX, § 1881 et seq. The authority of the United States to bring such an action is found in Sections 205 and 206(b) of the Act as amended.

At the trial of this cause it was contended that the housing accommodations were decontrolled because of regulatory provisions providing for exemption of additional housing accommodations created by conversion on or after February 1, 1947. It is respectfully submitted that this contention is not valid.

 Section 202(c)(3) *fn1" of the Housing Rent Act of 1947 provided that the term 'additional housing accommodations created by conversion on or after February 1, 1947 * * *.' Accordingly, the Controlled Housing Rent Regulation, 12 F.R. 4331, issued by the Housing Expediter provided in part as follows:

 'Section 1(b) Housing to which this regulation does not apply. This regulation does not apply to the following:

 '(8) Accommodations first offered for rent.

 '(1) Housing accommodations, the construction of which was completed on or after February 1, 1947, or which are additional housing accommodations created by conversion on or after February 1, 1947. * * *'

 For the purposes of this paragraph (8) the word 'conversion' means (1) a change in a structure from a nonhousing use or (2) a structural change in a residential unit or units involving substantial alterations or remodeling and resulting in the creation of additional housing accommodations.

 In order for housing accommodations to be exempt from the foregoing provisions, as the regulation applies to the facts in this case, it is necessary that the housing accommodations are additional housing accommodations and that such additional housing accommodations resulted from a structural change involving substantial alterations or remodeling.

 The burden of establishing that the housing accommodation comes within the exemption and thus not subject to rent control rests squarely upon the defendants. Woods v. Schwartz, D.C. W.D. Pa., 88 F.Supp., 385, 388; Woods v. Oak Park Chateau Corp., 7 Cir., 179 F.2d 611, 614; Bray v. Peck, 9 Cir., 190 F.2d 998, 1002.

 This burden was not met. Neither of the elements required to decontrol the housing accommodations under consideration were established. It was not shown that there was a structural change involving substantial alterations or remodeling nor was it demonstrated that the work performed resulted in the creation of additional housing accommodations.

 In view of the foregoing, the said housing accommodations were not exempt from rent control. The collection of rentals in excess of the maximum rent of $ 14 was in violation of the Housing and Rent Act of 1947 and the Controlled Housing Rent Regulation, and the issuance of an order requiring restitution of the rent overcharged thus collected is proper. United States v. Smith, D.C. W.D. Pa., 95 F.Supp. 622; Porter v. Warner Holding Co., 328 U.s. 305, 66 S. Ct. 1086, 90 L. Ed. 1332; United States v. Moore, 340 U.S. 616, 71 S. Ct. 524, 95 L. Ed. 582; Woods v. Bomboy, 3 Cir., 179 F.2d 565.

 I am cognizant of the technical nature and involvements of the law as it applies to the defendants, and my observation of the defendants with respect to their limitations in the understanding and comprehension of the English language convinces me that no willful violation of the Act was intended and under all circumstances practicable precautions were exercised to comply with the applicable law.

 In the interest of equity, I shall not invoke the penal provisions of the law as relate to double or treble damages, but shall direct restitution to the tenants ...


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