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215, 227, 229, 243, 284, 299, 394, 395
for refunds due to tenants and the secretary has had to handle this money and therefore we thought it was necessary to put in a section providing for calling him secretary and treasurer and putting him under bond.
The CHAIRMAN. That is, making one person both secretary and treasurer?
Mr. WHALEY. Yes. Section 8 simply sets out the duties of the secretary and treasurer.
Section 25 provides that the termination of the relation of landlord and tenant between the parties to any cause pending before the commission shall not deprive either party of the right to a hearing or subsequent to the commission's determination therein to a hearing or the right to recover in any action any sum which may be found to be due to either of the parties under such determination. It provides substantially that even though the relation of landlord and tenant has ceased, neither landlord nor tenant shall be deprived of a hearing before determination whether either may be entitled to a refund. Suppose, for instance, a tenant whose case for reduction has been pending before the commission for several months is unable to continue to pay the high rent and is disposessed and obliged to vacate. He may still have a hearing before the commission and obtain his refund for the excess paid during the months he was in occupation of the premises. The same applies to the landlord where ne has sold the property while the proceeding was pending or when the tenant has abandoned the premises. In other words, the case arises very often that the tenant can not get a hearing of the case Lecause it is too far down on the calendar and is unable to continue to pay the high rent.
When the case is heard, and the landlord makes the objection that the tenant has moved out and therefore the case ought to be dismissed. The same is true in the case of the landlord when he brings a case. The tenant moves out on him after the base has been pending several months and he has no redress either. The object of the section is simply to put them both on the same basis and allow the case to be heard by the commission, and if there is a refund coming to either one of them that they shall be entitled to it.
Section 45 provides that whenever the fair and reasonable rental of any apartment shall have been fixed by a determination of the commission, or by a final decision on appeal therefrom, the owner shall not increase the rental for the same superficial area and cubical contents because of a subsequent subdivision of said apartment into a greater number of rooms or apartments than existed at the time of such determination, until the fair and reasonable rental for such apartment or apartments so divided shall have been refixed by the commission upon application duly made. Should any such increase be collected by the owner, the commission shall bring an action in the municipal court to collect double the amount of such excess subject to and in accordance with the provisions of section 40 of this act.
The intent of this section is to prevent the wrongful evasion of the effect of a determination of the commission, of which some landlords have been guilty, by dividing the superficial area of an apartment, the rent of which has been fixed, into one or more apartments or an apartment with one or more additional rooms, and then
arbitrarily fixing a new and higher rental for the superficial area. In other words, the commission takes the value of the building and fixes the allowance and divides the apartments according to their size into that amount and fixes the rental.
The CHAIRMAX. Does it involve an increase in the value of the building? Mr. WHALEY. No, sir. Just follow me a moment and you will
After we have fixed the value of that apartment, the landlord goes in and cuts off one room and makes it into two apartments and charges for this one room and the other part of the apartment double the rent which has been fixed for the whole space by the rent commission.
Senator Jones of Washington. I wish you would give for the apartments where that has been done?
Mr. WHALEY. Yes, sir. We had a case where that was done and we carried it up to the district attorney and had him prosecute the matter in the municipal court. The man was fined. That was the Princeton apartment house up on W Street.
Senator JONES of Washingon. Is that the only instance?
Senator Joxes of Washington. I wish you would give for the record a list of those instances.
Let me suggest this, that it be understood that the record of this hearing be printed in the morning, so we may get it, and that it be not held out for revision or anything like that, but that we have the hearings printed so we may get them the next morning after the hearing is had.
Mr. WILALEY. I think in this case we fixed the rent of the apartment at $12.50. My recollection of it is that it consisted of three rooms, kitchen, and bath. They cut off one of the rooms and charged something like $90 for the same area. They got from the two apartments, so to speak, $90 instead of the amount fixed by the commission. The object of the section is simply that where a rent has been fixed on an apartment no additional charge shall be made for that area, no matter whether it is subdivided into two apartments or rooms or anything else, unless application is made to the commission to refix it on those rooms. That is the whole object of the section.
Representative BLANTON. Suppose you had three rooms, kitchen, and bath poorly furnished, unpainted, unpapered, the plumbing fixtures in a very insanitary condition, and you fix a rental of $12.50 which you say you fixed in this case. I presume that is the case by reason of the rental you fixed. The landlord goes in there and renovates one of the large rooms, has it repapered, repainted, with splendid new furniture put in it, and everything about it first class, and he then rents that room for $10 a month. Does the chairman of the Rent Commission mean to say that in such a case as that the owner of the property has to come down and get permission from somebody to do that?
Mr. W'HALEY. All he has to do is the regular procedure of applying to the commission to refix the rent on that apartment. It is a summary proceeding. He files a petition one day and we immediately go and inspect the property and refix the rent and give credit for everything he has done.
Representative BLANTON. Then if I understand the chairman no owner in a city of 437,000 inhabitants, the Nation's Capital, would ever be permitted to rent an apartment once the rent was fixed by the Rent Commission without its further permission ?
Mr. WHALEY. No, sir, because it is a case where the rent has been fixed and he has no right to change it unless the commission changes it for him. If we did not have such a provision as that it would simply be impossible to enforce the law.
Mr. GORE. I did not quite understand the statement. May I ask a question at this point ?
The CHAIRMAN. I think that so far as the hearing is concerned only members of the committee should be entitled to ask questions. You will have your hearing later, Mr. Gore.
Representative HAMMER. Permit me to suggest that after the witness closes and completes his direct testimony, Senator Gore should have an opportunity to ask such questions as he sees proper. I think it will facilitate matters very much if we give him a reasonable length of time. I merely make that suggestion.
The CHAIRMAN. My only objection to that procedure is that we have only two hours in which to hear the members of the Rent Commission. The time is fixed and published for the other hearings, and we must get through within the time limit.
Representative HAMMER. But would it not expedite matters and facilitate matters very greatly if at the close of Nr. Whaley's direct testimony Mr. Gore be permitted to ask certain questions?
The CHAIRMAN. That is for the committee to decide, but personally I should not think so.
Representative BLANTON. If we had plenty of time that would be the case, but all of the spare time the committee has in those two hours will probably be occupied by members of the committee. I want to ask some questions myself as a member of the committee. I am going to cover the ground pretty thoroughly when I get to asking questions.
Representative HAMMER. I think we will get along better to wait until he completes his direct statement anyway.
The CHAIRMAN. You may proceed, Mr. Whaley. Mr. WHALEY. Section 46 provides that, The commission shall make, publish, and promulgate such rules, regulations, and orders governing the maintenance and operation of rental property and apartments as will tend to promote the health, morals, peace, comfort, and welfare of the community, and any violation thereof which shall continue to exist after 10 days' notice in writing to remove the same, served upon the owner or his agent, either personally or by registered mail, shall be punished by a fine to be imposed by the commission of not exceeding $25 for each and every day after the service of said notice until such violation shall be removed.
It is essential that the commission be given this power to enforce its regulations by penalty; otherwise they would be a nullity. For the past six years landlords as a general rule have absolutely refused to make any repairs, to do any repairing, plastering, or papering. For the sake of squeezing the last dollar out of the property they have failed to furnish proper heat, and in many cases no heat at all.
Senator Jones of Washington. Do you say that is the general rule followed by the landlord?
Mr. WHALEY. No, sir; I did not say that.
Mr. BLANTON. He said for the last six years that had been the rule.
Mr. WHALEY. I said for the past six years the landlords as a general rule had failed to make repairs.
Senator Jones of Washington. That is what I meant.
Representative BLANTON. I understood Senator Jones to say, and I agree with him, that this record ought to go just like it is without any revision at all and be printed in the morning. We do not want any revision of it.
Senator Jones of Washington. They will not have time to revise.
Representative BLANTON. Let it go in and be printed just as it is and speak for itself.
Senator Jones of Washington. If anyone should find when it is printed that it makes a contrary statement to that intended, it may be corrected, but we want to get the record printed in the morning.
The CHAIRMAN. Is it your point to send the hearings just as quickly as they are typewritten to be printed, so we can get them without any correction by anybody?
Representative BLANTON. Yes. This is the reason why I made the point following Senator Jones. Senator Jones understood Mr. Whaley correctly. He said " as a general rule.” I understood him correctly when he said " for the past six years." If he attempts to qualify that as he did here we can not get anywhere with this hearing at all.
The CHAIRMAN. But he did not say as a general rule failed to supply heat. He said as a general rule they failed to make repairs.
Representative HAMMER. That is very different from the way Senator Jones understood it.
Mr. WHALEY. That was with reference to the heat.
Senator JONES of Washington. I do not have in mind that you would try to make your testimony different from what it was. That never occurred to me at all. I just wanted to see if I had understood you correctly.
Representative BLANTON. We understand language for what it means.
Mr. WHALEY. I do not want to correct a thing in the record. I want to let it go just as it is.
Mr. HAMMER. Our stenographers are very fine and I never saw better, but last year Mr. Deal, who was attorney for the tenants, made a statement in the record which appeared under the head of “ Mr. Hammer.” I was made to appear, so far as the record was concerned, as being attorney and filing a brief for the landlords. I can see no objection, if a witness wants to do so, to letting him revise the proof, if it is convenient, to correct clerical errors. I can see no objection to any of the witnesses revising their statements. There certainly could be no objection to that. I call attention to that because of the fact of that mistake which was made in my own case, which was due to the fact that I myself did not read the proof. Mistakes of that kind are apt to happen and ought to be prevented if they can by a revision of the proof.