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Senator Jones of Washington. You made this investigation, and you have no official position now?
Mr. SCHIRMER. No, sir.
Senator Jones of Washington. And all the business you have is connected with this Tenants League?
Mr. SCHIRMER. Yes, sir.
Representative LAMPERT. Mr. Chairman, Congressman LaGuardia is in the room. He would like to have about 5 or 10 minutes of the committee's time, with the permission of Mrs. Brown. He is going to leave the city and he would like to be heard now.
Mrs. Brown. We will be glad to hear Congressman LaGuardia.
STATEMENT OF HON. FIORELLO H. LAGUARDIA
Mr. LAGUARDIA. Gentlemen, my purpose in coming here was to ive the committee the benefit of what experience I have had in connection with the housing situation in New York City.
In the first place, I want to go on record as unequivocally indorsing the Ball bill as introduced, S. 3764. It speaks the result of actual experience in rent legislation for the last six or seven years.
I have heard that it has been suggested that the municipal courts should be given jurisdiction in deciding the reasonabieness of the rents, and in that regard I want to tell you that our rent law in New York, which is not as satisfactory as the provisions in this S. 3764, gives the municipal court jurisdiction over the reasonableness of the rent, with the result that the court is bound by the ordinary rules of evidence and procedure and it takes a long time to decide a case.
We have had many judicial decisions and constructions of the law so that the rent law to-day in New York, which was passed as an emergency measure for the purpose of affording relief and protection to the tenant, as construed to-day guarantees an income in perpetuity to the landlord. They have construed that he is entitled to 8 per cent on the valuation of the building, regardless of the guarantee, if you please. Now, what happens! He comes in with the experts on valuation and the assessed valuation is only prima facie evidence—and then he comes in with his cost of maintenance. During the first four or five months, gentlemen, before the landlords be ame versed and experienced in proving the cost of maintenance, the tenant had some show. Now they come in with their receipted bills, their experts, their vouchers and the tenant has absolutely no opportunity, gentlemen, to offset those charges.
I left the city only 10 days ago to try a tenant case, a case which I tried a year ago. A landlord has recently acquired the building. He put in the usual alterations, of electric bells and painted hallways, and put up the rent 50 per cent. Notwithstanding the showing of the tenant, the jury brought in a verdict for the tenant, but the judge set aside the verdict and we compromised in the hope of settling it. A year later the landlord brings another action with another long list of maintenance and repair charges. Why, if all his vouchers were correct, instead of this being a tenement on the east side of New York you would think it was the Lincoln Memorial!
Now, you have solved the problem in this bill by giving this commission the power to go in and make its investigation in an informal sort of way. You have fully protected all the parties by providing that the hearings must be open and public. You have provided for appeals, so that either party may take an appeal, and you have found an expeditious and proper way of settling this very important problem.
Now, gentlemen, it is so easy to answer the charge that this bill is unnecessary because the rents are going down. Well, if the rents are going down and there is plenty of available space, then no one is going to be hurt by it.
But, if you let tħis law lapse—and, by the way, we have ertended the provisions of our law in New York up to April, 1926the minute the law lapses rents will go up 50 per cent, and there is no doubt about it.
Why, gentlemen, the argument that a landlord ought to have the right to say who should live in his house is a repetition of the arguments we heard when we were first studying the formation of an Interstate Commerce Commission and the regulation of railroads. The railroads to-day must take the freight of every shipper_and must carry every passenger who applies for transportation. It is. as you have provided here, a public utility in the highest sense of the word, and you have the benefit here of the experience of Senator Copeland, who was health commissioner at the time I was president of the Board of Aldermen in New York City, and, if it had not been for the rent laws which we passed in 1920, we would have liad a crisis in New York City.
And now, in conection with my experience with landlords in the last 20 years of public office, I do not want to say that there are no honest landlords; I have simply been unfortunate in that I have not met many of them.
I was very mu h amused in hearing just a few moments ago the charge against this league. Why, we had exactly the same question in New York City. We would have complaints to the effect that the landlords had refused the use of the schools for these “ terrible" leagues, and the same kinds of charges, and, gentlemen, I receive every day in my mail letters from landlord organizations in my city urging me not to support this “terrible” bill.
Now, as it has been pointed out just a few moments ago, that is entirely irrelevant. It has nothing to do with the real issue and that is whether or not the rent is reasonable.
This is a splendid bill; and I want to take this opportunity to compliment Commissioner Whaley. If I ever return to city administration, I would like to have Mr. Whaley with me. He has backbone; he has nerve; and that is what you need in this kind of a situation.
Now, you understand that the laws pertaining to real estate were drafted hundreds of years ago by the landlords themselves, when tenants could not vote, and, of course, this is a drastic departure. But so is everything else which is brought about by changed conditions, and in upholding the constitutionality of our law in New York City the court of appeals, the highest appellate court in our
I thank you.
State, properly held that, after all, it is for each age to decide what the law for that age shall be and we must construe constitutional limitations in the light of changed conditions. I hope that this committee will give the House an opportunity to vote on Senate bill 3764, introduced by Senator Ball, and on behalf of the tenants of New York City—and I feel that I have a right to make that appeal, because surely the landlords of New York have appealed to the contrary-we ask Congress to pass this law and to make it a model law for the Nation. It is the only hope of the tenants.
Representative HAMMER. You say you received several letters from these landlords in New York ?
Representative LAGUARDIA. Oh, yes.
Representative HAMMER. Are they all very much of the same tenor?
Representative LAGUARDIA. The same kind of letters and the same arguments that they presented to the State legislature three times.
Representative HAMMER. We have now an open book about what the Tenants' League has done, and I understand that thousands of letters have been set out by the landlords stating the character of this bill to other landlords throughout the country, and I think it would be nothing but fair if these gentlemen would be so kind as to furnish us with a copy of that letter and also with copy of the letter which I understand they sent making suggestions of the lines along which they desired these gentlemen to write to their Members of Congress.
Representative LAGUARDIA. Did you not receive a letter and a brief from the Real Estate Board of New York?
Representative HAMMER. No; I never received anything from anybody.
Representative LAGUARDIA. That was a splendid brief 100 years ago. They presented that to our legislature and it was rejected, so the argument has been tried.
Representative HAMMER. I had wondered if we could not get copies of those letters. Probably Mr. Petty might furnish them.
Mr. GORE. Will you kindly ask Representative LaGuardia to furnish a copy of the opinion that he referred to?
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. LaGuardia, will you kindly furnish Senator Gore with a copy of that opinion?
(No response, Representative LaGuardia having meanwhile left the room.)
Mr. GORE. I suggested that he furnish the committee, not me, with a copy of that opinion. Of course, I should be very glad to have it.
Representative HAMMER. So far as I am concerned, I do not care about that brief. We have had enough briefs here.
Mrs. Brown. We would like to call as the next witness, Mrs. Tschipke, who has already been before the committee, but her case was the one that was noted in the papers and photographs of her and her effects being set out in the snow were shown. It was called a “frame-up” by one of the realtors who testified before this committee.
FURTHER TESTIMONY OF MRS. JESSIE TSCHIPKE The CHAIRMAN. Mrs. Tschipke, I understand you have been previously sworn. Do you wish to make a statement?
Mrs. TSCHIPKE. Yes. You should not be under the impression that I was put out for not paying my rent as I have here my receipts. I have always sent in my rent, for eight years. I would not have lived there if I had not paid any rent. My checks were always sent in by the first of the month, and the reason that the landlord did not like me is because I went to the Rent Commission.
Representative HAMMER. I think she previously has made that clear. She paid her checks promptly for the amount that the Rent Commission fixed, then when she was notified to get out she saw an article in the paper stating that the apartments will rent for $67.50 and she went and tendered the $67.50, which was $20 more than the Rent Commission had fixed, and they declined to let her have it.
Mrs. TSCHIPKE. Yes.
Mrs. TSCHIPKE. The point, you know, is that if that had been a frame-up, gentlemen, I would not have gone; I would let them have the marshal put me out. I would not have tendered the money and told him twice that I was sick and can not go out, and that is why I am making the sacrifice to give the owner the rent he is asking
I really was sick. My things were packed for a couple of weeks thinking that when my time came I would have to go, but positively the weather was the worst and from the snow I got sick and I think anybody would get sick from running around from Stone & Fairfax and many others to Goss & McKeever, and those places, the rent for them, was three times as much as five years ago and some of those places were positively not fit to go in. I was even in the Cumberland Apartments, which is a beautiful apartment from the outside, but positively-I am not a woman of luxury, but I like to have it clean, but positively those apartments for $95 were not fit for me to go in.
The CHAIRMAN. I think your testimony was very clear before.
Mrs. TscHIPKE. I do not want for the public to know it, because it is hurting my husband's business. I was not put out for not paying the rent, when I lived there for eight years and paid the rent.
Representative HAMMER. This lady came to my office and tried to enlist me in her behalf, to get her a place, and I made an effort. I knew a gentleman who came to my office and who is in charge of a number of apartments here, and I called his attention to the fact that if there were plenty of apartments here was a lady looking for one and that there were three persons whom I knew who lived in the same apartment with her and said that they were nice people. He said he would get her one. That was the day before. The next day after the ejectment, he said "I wrote her a letter. She did not get the letter in time, then. I do not know why she did not get it.” I must think, if they are anxious
Mrs. TSCHIPKE (interposing). As far as the newspapers—I do not want to be in the newspapers to be put out on the street. We have a little business.
Representative HAMMER. Did you notify the correspondents to be there, or did they catch on with that nose for news that nobody can divine? Did you phone them?
Mrs. TSCHIPKE. No, sir; it would have hurt my husband's business to be put out on the street, and it did, and hurt me, too. Why was that put in the paper that way?
FURTHER TESTIMONY OF MRS. HENRY C. BROWN
Mrs. Brown. I want to testify next. Mrs. Tschipke had been to me a good many times in regard to her case. I know that she was positively ill for several days before her eviction. She came to me after having spent an entire day in looking into the apartments given her by McKeever & Goss, and she was so worn and so ill that I offered her hot tea, etc., and her limbs were swollen and the women was suffering.
I felt that it was a serious case, and therefore when I found that she was to be absolutely evicted I myself telephoned-I did not realize that it could do Mrs. Tschipke any possible harm-to the News and the Herald that this woman was going to be evicted and that she had done everything in her power, she had even offered her landlord the very rate of rent that he was advertising the apartment for in the paper, and he refused to take it. Therefore, I thought that this was a case that the public should be aware of, so I telephoned myself to those two papers and take upon myself the blame for the "frame-up."
& I have here a letter which I wish to put into the evidence (reading]: To whom it may concern:
On the date of January 9 the Washington Herald was called on the telephone and apprised of the fact that Mrs. Tschipke was to be served with an evict on notice by the United States marshal's office. The informant, a woman, said she was Mrs. Henry C. Brown. The matter was assigned to Joseph Phillips, a Washington Herald reporter. The matter was checked through the court reporter, Newell Rogers, and when notice was received at the Herald office that the marshal was on his way, å photographer was assigned by the city editor.
This is the testimony of Mr. Bryan Morse, the city editor of the Washington Herald.
I would like to call Mrs. Webb next. We have heard on many occasions from the real-estate men of Washington that they are wholesomely and sweetly desirous of assisting the tenants in Washington to secure homes. I have asked Mrs. Webb to testify of her experience in that particular.
STATEMENT OF MRS. JULIET B. WEBB
Mrs. WEBB. I live at 2138 California Street, the Lonsdale, and I just want to state my case at the Lonsdale.
When I first went to the Lonsdale, 11 years ago, I paid $25 a month as my rent. It is on the fourth floor back, with no elevator service. The Rent Commission, in 1923, set my rent at $32.50. The present landlord wishes $15 and I declined to pay that, so he has served me with an eviction notice.