Robert Boyd, Jr., Philadelphia, for appellant.
Charles S. Shotz, Philadelphia, for appellee.
Before Hirt, Acting P. J., and Ross, Gunther, Wright, Woodside and Ervin, JJ.
[ 176 Pa. Super. Page 377]
This action in trespass was brought by William and Virginia Trimback, husband and wife, against the former's aunt, Anna M. McDonald, for refund of overpayment of rent, treble damages, attorney's fees and costs under the federal Housing and Rent Act of 1947, Act of June 30, 1947 as amended, c. 163, Title II, sec. 201 et seq., 61 Stat. 196 et seq., Title 50 U.S.C.A. Appendix, § 1891 et
[ 176 Pa. Super. Page 378]
seq. The defendant counterclaimed for the value of property allegedly damaged or removed, as well as for unpaid rent and a balance which she claimed as due on a loan of $100 made to plaintiffs by her. The plaintiffs denied having made such loan.
After trial in the Municipal Court of Philadelphia County on April 23, 1952, a verdict was rendered for the plaintiffs in the sum of $388 in their suit, and for them as defendants in the counterclaim. Defendant's motion for new trial was dismissed by the court for want of prosecution and judgment entered on the verdict. Later, however, the judgment was stricken off and the motion for new trial reinstated. The court en banc, after consideration of the motion, dismissed it and again entered judgment. Thereafter, pursuant to stipulation of counsel, the court again struck off the judgment, reinstated defendant's motion for new trial and determined the case on submitted briefs, with the result that on March 11, 1953 the motion for new trial was again dismissed and judgment entered on the verdict. Defendant has appealed to this Court.
On September 8, 1949 plaintiffs rented a third-floor, furnished apartment from defendant under an oral agreement. They occupied the apartment until August 10, 1950, when defendant had them evicted as undesirable tenants. Their weekly rental was $10. Defendant did not immediately, at the beginning of plaintiffs' tenancy, register with the Office of Price Administration, and it was not until August 9, 1950 (the day before plaintiffs removed from the premises) that she obtained a ruling by the OPA fixing the maximum rent at $10 weekly, retroactive to September 8, 1949. On December 19, 1950 the Area Rent Director issued his 'final order' decreasing the rent from $10 to $8 a week, effective from September 8, 1949, and ordering that any excess collected over and above that rental
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be refunded to the tenants within 30 days of the date of the order. The order also set forth a penalty of treble damages for violation thereof. Upon defendant's refusal to refund the excess, plaintiffs instituted the present action.
The OPA ruling of August 9, 1950 was tentative and, as such, of course, subject to revision. As stated by Mr. Justice Jackson, speaking for the United States Supreme Court in Woods v. Stone, 333 U.S. 472, at page 475, 68 S.Ct. 624, at page 625, 92 L.Ed. 815: 'The plan therefore provides that, despite his failure to register, the landlord may continue to collect his unapproved price, but only on condition that it is subject to revision by the public authority and to a refund of anything then found to have been excessive.' The final order of December 19, 1950 establishes the legality of the award to plaintiffs of $2 weekly, or a total of $96. It cannot successfully be contended on behalf of defendant that having waited 11 months to obtain a determination of the legal maximum rental for her ...