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ranging from three to four rooms and bath, mostly with balconies and halls included, in the finest buildings in this city, and perhaps in the entire East, buildings occupied by Congressmen and high public officers, for rates as follows: $60 to $70 for three rooms; $75 to $85 for four rooms—and in many cases these rates are under those fixed by the Rent Commission. These offers are available to any desirable tenants. The rates are from 30 per cent to 50 per cent lower than similar apartments elsewhere.
I want to say further that we have always been ready and willing, and are still at present, to help out any deserving and legitimate case of poverty among any tenants in our buildings and we have no doubt that most landlords take the same stand. There were poor people in 1914 who could not afford to pay reasonable rents—there were people like that, and we are always ready and willing to do our share to help them. As a practical proposition, we have not many such cases, for the tenants in our buildings are generally of the well-to-do class.
I want to say further to the committee that I am positive if this continual rent agitation and all these hearings and so on were to stop, I am certain that within a comparatively short space of time we will be on the very best of terms with all of our tenants, even with the small minority who apparently are not on good terms with us at present.
We make a practice of renting apartments under the market so as to keep them full. Our greatest boast is that we keep our buildings full. We are very successful in that, and in order to do that we have to rent apartments under the market and treat the tenants well or they will not stay with us.
The CHAIRMAN. It is not now necessary to ask you many of these questions. You are the manager of Clifton Terrace ?
Mr. Low. That is a little of a misnomer. I am more of an attorney than a manager. We have a large number of buildings, some eight or nine, and my work is more that of a supervisor over all the buildings than of any one particular building.
The CHAIRMAN. Would you state for the record the buildings that you are attorney for?
Mr. Low. Clifton Terrace; Sixteenth Street Mansions; Brighton: Lonsdale; Wellington Plaza; and Argyle. I think that would cover them.
The CHAIRMAN. How long have you been in the real estate business?
Mr. Low. I have been in the real estate business- that is a hard question to answer, because ever since I was a boy my people were always in the real estate business.
The CHAIRMAN. Does Maurice Baskin & Co. own all those buildings you are connected with?
Mr. Low. Yes, all those buildings.
The CHAIRMAN. Would you send to the committee an itemized statement of the rents charged in the various apartments and where you have advanced the rents. We would like to have an itemized statement of the rents on the first day of October and the rents asked now in all the apartments.
When did you acquire that building!
The CHAIRMAN. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. Then you had better make it the middle of September, at the time you acquired it.
Mr. Low. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. Have you reduced the number of employees in the building?
Mr. Low. In the Clifton Terrace?
Representative HAMMER. I note that there have been no complaints made to the Rent Commission about most of your apartment houses, only just part of them, according to this report. The question that I wanted to ask you, you have answered. Now, the Lonsdale; have you increased the rents in that?
Mr. Low. Some rents increased; some rents decreased.
Representative HAMMER. Have you a list of those that are decreased!
Mr. Low. With me?
Representative HAMMER. Have you increased them in the Wellington ?
Mr. Low. We have increased some, yes.
Mr. Low. I should say about 25 to 30 per cent. In some cases we have helped them.
Representative HAMMER. Well, now, in the Lonsdale, what per cent of increases has been made or requested ?
Mr. Low. That is something I can not say offhand.
Representative HAMMER. The statement given here by the Rent Commission shows your requests to be very moderate compared with some of the apartments in the city. Apartment 205, 10 per cent; apartment 203, 3342 per cent; apartment 414, 38 per cent; apartment 401, 3292 per cent
Mr. Low. (interposing). May I interrupt a moment. I might say that the requests for increases shown are not indicative of the actual increases under any circumstances. As I have stated before, it is a matter in all cases of trying to adjust it. For example, take Mrs. Worrell, that specific case. She is paying $48. I believe that she was asked for an increase to $65. She came down to see me and I voluntarily offered it to her for $60. Now, as a practical proposition I imagine we will get along with Mrs. Worrell, because she realizes that she is getting something very cheap and she herself knows that the building is being conducted as finely as she would want it, that the halls are being fixed up and that the building is being put in very fine condition.
Representative HAMMER. A good deal of testimony has been furnished here that landlords have decreased rents in the last three or four months. It has been suggested to me, and I am only asking for information and not speaking particularly of your apartment, for I have not heard that charge as to your apartment, that in a number of apartment houses in the city there was a very considerable increase after the Supreme Court's dictum and that since then
they have decreased. In other words, these reductions that have been testified to result in rents not less than they were a year ago but less than they were after they had been increased immediately after the decision of the Supreme Court. Is that correct?
Mr. Low. Well, in individual cases that may be so, but as a general proposition I do not think that that is the case. I believe, sir, if I may be permitted to continue, that the present condition of a partment-house renting in this city is such that it is impossible, sa ve in very rare and special cases, due to the existence of the Rent Commission or the continual haggling around the courts, to increase the rent, because you can not get the increased rent. Some people have remained in apartments at very ridiculously low rates. You have got to get your rent. As I said before, we will rent apartments for less than what the commission fixed as fair.
Representative HAMMER. In the Argyle, have you made increases since the decision of the Supreme Court?
Mr. Low. I believe that the gross income of the Argyle at the present moment is almost to a penny what was fixed by the Rent Commission.
Representative HAMMER. I am talking about the different apartments. There may be more vacancies now. What I want to know is whether you have increased the rentals.
Mr. Low. I mean that the total rental schedule at the present time is no greater than the schedule submitted by the Rent Commission.
I want to point out something showing the inequities which will result from the Rent Commission, not due to the fault of the commission, but it is bound to be. The Rent Commission sits down and figures out the gross rentals and then apportions them over the apartment. They really can not hope to do that successfully in the short time they must allow to each particular building. In the Argyle, for example, which is a four-story walk-up building, they fixed the rent on the fourth floor, where a person has to walk up an additional flight of stairs at least, higher than on the second and third floors.
Senator JONES of Washington. They wanted them to take exercise.
Mr. Low. The trouble is that they don't want to pay for that sort of gymnastics. Now, I believe that it is fair to try to balance that sort of a situation.
Representative HAMMER. Now, the Sixteenth Street Mansions. Did you increase the rent immediately after the decision of the court and have you reduced them since? You made a very considerable reduction since ?
Mr. Low. I might say this, that, although that particular case was fought very strongly by the owners and carried to the Supreme Court, and I think it cost them about $25,000 or $30,000 to fight that single case, the rents have never been raised and in fact have been materially lowered below the rents fixed by the Rent Commission.
Representative HAMMER. Now, the Brighton; have you increased the rents at any time since the decision?
Mr. Low. We have never increased the rents in that; we have lowered them.
Representative HAMMER. There has been no complaint as to these last three. Just one more: Have there been any increases—you say there have been increases in Clifton Terrance and the Wellington?
Mr. Low. Yes.
Representative HAMMER. Can you give an estimate offhand of the percentage that present rates have been increased over the former rates in the Clifton Terrace?
Mr. Low. The total schedule of the Clifton Terrace—if we get all these increases that there is so much controversy about won't be over 10 per cent over the total fixed by the Rent Commission.
Representative HAMMER. How many apartments in that building?
Mr. Low. They brought a number here of 50. I should say about 50.
Representative HAMMER. What was your purpose in raising the rents in those apartments and not raising them in the others?
Mr. Low. The others were paying easily as much rent as we want. They are paying as much as we can possibly get on the competitive market. În some cases we have had to cut them. I have cut rents there voluntarily.
Representative HAMMER. You don't raise the rents all at one time?
Mr. Low. I beg your pardon. We raise them where we think it essential and the equities are with us.
Representative HAMMER. You have in view the purpose of increasing them again soon in the Clifton Terrace, if I may ask you such a question?
Mr. Low. There is one thing about us which has been greatly criticized, and that is that when we want to do something we go ahead and do it.
Representative HAMMER. One of your tenants, Mrs. Dorman, said you offered her $25 to get out of the building.
Mr. Low. I might say we make a general practice of that, that where we feel in the process of adjusting any rent we are likely to inflict a hardship upon a person who has been in the apartment, we pay their moving expenses.
Representative HAMMER. Did you refuse to let her have the use of your freight elevator?
Mr. Low. I did not, sir.
Representative HAMMER. Do you remember about that? I do not want to take too much time.
Mr. Low. If you want me to, I can explain that particular incident. That is a practical proposition. I do not follow every one
. of these minute occurrences, but it just happened that I was in the south building when this thing occurred. I happened to have come down there on some business and was standing in the lobby when this woman flew in like the house was on fire and called me everything in the dictionary.
Representative HAMMER. That is the reason you are suing her?
Mr. Low. You mean about the lack of notice! Possibly that may enter into it. I feel that if a person is unsatisfactory to me, there is no reason why I should be generous to her. Anyhow, she came in and called me everything in the dictionary. When she got through, I asked her what the trouble was. About half an hour later I found out what it was. It appears that she had suddenly decided to move, and without any notice to us. As to that particular freight elevator, in order to run it we have to put a man on it. We can not let anybody indiscriminately run that elevator. Had she come to me, we could have made arrangements for it. What happened evidently was that that particular minute the fuse was out and the janitor was trying to fix it. She was offered the elerator afterwards. Then, half an hour after her tirade against me, she called the police department and the policeman came down to look over the situation, but he did not arrest me. Finally she told her man to move her furniture down through the service stairway. which is for that purpose.
Representative HAMMER. Do you remember the figures at which your property is valued for taxation?
Mr. Low. I do not know. I know it is valued by the Court of Appeals at $2,363,992.50.
Representative HAMMER. You offered to sell it to your tenants at one time?
Mr. Low. I certainly did.
Representative HAMMER. Do you mind telling us what you would take for it?
Mr. Low. I think that would be a very good figure. I would give them a little discount for cash. I thought at the time, in talking about the solution of this rental problem and I was in perfect seriousness-I suggested that in view of all the controversy and in view of the fact that the landlords were making so much money, one good way was to ask them to buy the building. I am sure they would make money out of it; although, incidentally, they refused to have anything to do with owning the building.
The CHAIRMAN. Has there been any complaint in the Clifton Terrace about apartments not being properly heated?
Mr. Low. I should say that there have been some sporadic cases of that type. Incidentally, that is nothing abnormal. You have it everywhere. You can not hope to please 300 tenants at every minute of the day.
Here is the thing I am up against. A lady came in—and this hap, pened about the time I said I would sell the building to them and she said the service was terrible, because another lady was allowed to keep her baby carriage in the balcony. I immediately got in touch with the lady who had the baby carriage, and she said. “I think that is terrible of the landlord to tell me to take it off.” Ther began to fight about it and I walked out. The CHAIRMAN. You require leases, do you not?
? Mr. Low. When we rent apartments to newcomers, we require leases.
The CHAIRMAN. They are all uniform leases?
Mr. Low. The same lease for everybody. I simply use that Law Reporter blank. Whoever got it out, I don't know. They cost a nickel apiece.