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Under date of January 6 I received this letter from the White House :
Your letter of the 5th, with inclosure, has been received and I have placed it before the President.
By his direction, the matter to which you refer is at once being brought to the attention of the Rent Commission. Sincerely,
C. BASCOM SLEMP,
Secretary to the President. Now, Mr. Chairman, although they requested an increase of 20 per cent in rent effective June 1, 1924, I have never paid it. I paid them at the rate of $80 a month. There was a time in 1924 when I was slightly behind in the payment of the rent. There are reasons for that. I had a frozen investment of about $3,800 in New York and here, and one of my daughter's investments was also frozen in a very large company in which Mr. Young is interested. I paid them, though; they were paid in one check and they never sent me any notice from the marshal.
Now, there is a Senator here in Washington who is a friend of mine, and I wrote him a letter and that Senator, with all his difficulties and work, took the trouble to write to this firm, and they sent a man to see the Senator and he made a financial statement to the Senator which I have, but they began that financial statement with January 1, 1924. They did not go back to 1920, 1921, 1922, and 1923 when I was never lagging one hour in the rent, but there was a short period when I was lagging in 1924.
The CHAIRMAN. We have a great many persons who are waiting to testify.
Mr. Ryan. I want to give you this case. Anyway, they ended by saying there was $220 due, but they did not say that they had received a check dated January 5 for $220, nor did they say that they received a check that same day for $80 to pay for February. They left that erroneous impression in the Senator's mind. That Senator I am a constituent of, Senator Copeland.
Then I received on the 15th day of January a notice from the United States Marshal, a notice of ouster. On the 16th day of January I received my check for $80 back.
Well, I went before the municipal court, and I appeared as my own attorney. The case was tried before Judge O'Toole and the first movement of the attorney for Mr. Carrick was to demand of me an affidavit of defense. I informed the court that the suit was brought in the name of Helen Ryan; that that was not my name. I showed that the checks were made out in my name in 1921, 1922, and 1923. True, my daughter did pay some checks; helped her father out. All the other evidence was quite sufficient to my lay mind, but still the judge insisted upon the affidavit of defense. Well, I had something to say there for about an hour.
I got the affidavits of defense from the Rent Commission, three of them, where the case was before. And, by the way, my daughter has heart trouble and I took her to that court in the storm yesterday and the attorney confessed non-suit. I then naturally inquired why I should have been put to all that trouble, and then I told him he could have his check, but I did not think I would give it to him. But I did give it to him.
Now, Senator, I want to bring to your attention something of a very serious nature that reaches way beyond me. There [handing sketch to chairman) is a very indifferent drawing of Fontenet Courts, although I am an engineer. They are built at the corner of 14th and Fairmont Streets, the southwest corner. They are five stories high, and contain 64 apartments, housing a very good class of tenants. The opening is on Fairmont Street.
Now, between the buildings itself it is very beautiful. Right opposite are the Falkstone Courts. All along 14th Street they ran a very considerable space of ground, the full width of the court, a beautiful lawn.
Mr. Carrick applied for permission to put up stores there, onestory stores. The district engineers told him to wait until a ruling was made, but he got a mandamus and erected the stores just the same, and they are up. Well, now, one of these stores which have been erected, as that diagram shows, is built right over the areaway that ran from Fourteenth Street to the south the full length of Fontenet Courts. That areaway was large enough for a truck to drive in, to bring in coal and whatever was required. He covered that up with his store. That areaway extended the full length of the building so as to join the areaway running north. Since that store has been built, there was a fire there; an apartment caught fire and burned. The firemen could not go in the Fourteenth Street way, so they had to go around to the property formerly owned by Justice Harlan on Euclid Street, break down the fence and pour in the water. Since then another fire has occurred in that apartment and they had to bring in the hose from the main entrance on Fairmont Street to get the water in.
Now, there is the action of that philanthropist, as he calls himself, there. I wrote the District Commissioners a letter on that question on July 18. In that letter I simply stated the facts, and this is their answer.
The Commissioners of the District of Columbia direct me to acknowledge receipt of your communication of the 18th instant, requesting the removal of the store erected in Fourteenth Street and Fairmont Street by Mr. James L. Carrick on the ground that in case of fire it would interfere with the work of the Fire Department, and to state that the matter has been referred to the Engineer Commissioner for attention.
I wrote the President. The President's secretary answered me and said that the letter was referred to the District Commissioners. Then the District Commissioners wrote me a letter:
Your letter of recent date to the President of the United States and the Commissioners of the District of Columbia relative to the store of Mr. James L. Carrick recently erected on Fourteenth Street, have been received and carefully considered.
When application was made for permit to erect the one-story stores adjoining Fontenet Courts, such permit was refused
The applicant, James L. Carrick, thereupon filed a petition in court praying for the issuance of a mandamus to compel the Inspector of Buildings to grant the permit. The court granted the petition and the writ of mandamus was issued. An appeal was taken by the District of Columbia. but before it was perfected a jury in the condemnation proceedings found that the earnings did not equal the damage. Consequently the proceedings had to be withdrawn, whereupon permit was issued.
These stores have been erected in strict compliance with the zoning and buildings regulations and are being so erected that the Commissioners are without authority to order their removal.
That is an evasion of my letter, so I wrote them to-day:
I am in receipt of your letter signed by your secretary of even date. The subject matter of your letter is simply an avoidance of a reply to the letter that I wrote to the President. This is clearly demonstrated by your letter to me of the 20th instant, and I am forwarding copies of your letter to the President.
I wrote the secretary to the President to-day:
The CHAIRMAN (interposing). Is this not more of a zoning matter than a rental proposition?
Mr. Ryan. Not that part of it because, unquestionably, when that apartment was built with 34 apartments and 100 lives in there that areaway ran the full length of that apartment and it was unquestionably for the purpose of assisting the Fire Department to put out fires. Since they put up these stores, I say to you that fire has occurred there in one apartment and the Fire Department could not get in unless they went way down to Euclid Street, put the hose over the Jewish property, break down the fence and in that way put out the fire. Had this areaway been left where it was, the hose would have been put in there in about two minutes.
In the other case of fire, they had to bring their hose to the main entrance, as I stated before.
That is all I have to say, Mr. Senator. I wish to add this, that in my case, which ended yesterday and which they nonsuited, I said: “Do you propose to bring another suit? If you do, proceed; I will meet you.
I am through.
Mr. Ryan. Mr. Chairman, I would like to submit this [handing file to chairman) as a complement to the Whaley bill.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Ryan, you submit that under oath?
STATEMENT OF MR. J. A. CREEL
(The witness was sworn by the chairman.)
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Creel, we have a great many people who desire to testify, and I find that we will have to try to limit you to five or ten minutes. Make your statement as concise as possible.
Mr. CREEL. Mr. Chairman, I came down here to-night for the purpose of giving you a talk from observation. My business for the last five years has been the industrial insurance business and I for that reason have had an opportunity to come in direct contact and become more or less intimate with the affairs of my constituents, perhaps more so than the average person.
I therefore would like to have something to say in regard to specific properties in the northeast, southwest, Georgetown, Anacostia, and, in fact, practically all of Washington.
If you feel that my time should be so limited, I will just tell you of two or three striking cases.
The CHAIRMAN. We can give you ten minutes. You can say a great deal in ten minutes.
Mr. CREEL. Well, I will state my own case.
I rented an apartment or part of a two-family flat in northeast, at 32012 Thirteenth Street NÈ., for $40 a month. The party who lived over me paid $45. There was a garage on the back that was rented to still a third party. The entire cost of the property was $6,500. There is no service and there has been no service whatever; nó screens, and we had latrobe heat, and coal had to be brought in from downstairs.
Senator JONES of Washington. How many rooms?
Mr. CREEL. Four rooms, kitchenette, and bath-a bluff at a bath, I would say. That property now rents for $104 per month. Since I moved away from it the rent has been increased $5 per month, they making the tenant pay $45. Another garage has been put on the same property and the other one shifted so that there is barely room to take out the ashes, and the two of them rent for $14, making a total return on an investment of $6,500 of $104 per month.
I moved across the street and rented a house there finally for $55. That house was held for $76.50, but in order to have some one in it in the wintertime, when it would be necessary to keep the pipes from freezing, as a sort of a caretaker, they finally condescended to rent it for $55 during the coal-burning season. I have a lease until the 6th of June for $55. After that time, I am informed, my lease will not be renewed and the property will go back and be rented at perhaps a higher rental.
When I moved into this house I put up a sign on the door where I had lived that indicated where I had moved to, to provide for the delivery of mail and other packages coming to the house. The property had evidently been advertised, because 15 or 20 people came over there to find out about the property. They did not have the key and came to me; and I think that probably is as striking an example as I have in mind, where $104 a month was being received upon an investment of $6,500.
Senator Jones of Washington. Don't you consider that the lot is worth anything?
Mr. CREEL. The lot and the garages would be considered in that price. It was an old house, a very old house, probably 35 years old, and while I was there the toilet got out of whack and I made a request through the real estate agent and also the owner to have it repaired, and after many frantic attempts to get it repaired I was forced to appeal to the plumbing inspector's office, and after considerable time I finally got it fixed. They told me there that they had to serve two or three notices on him to get action, and it was finally fixed.
When I called him up the last time he told me that I could move out, and I told him I had no place to move and that I had been looking around for five years and, being in the business that I am engaged in, I felt that I had an exceptional opportunity to find out about rent, going into the homes of different persons along the streets and talking with them, that I had a good opportunity to see rental property and to see the condition of it. I also had an opportunity there in that way iv know just exactly what effect a dime or a quarter would have on a family that I was collecting from and, speaking of my cases, of that particular industrial class, 19 per cent are really suffering on account of the high rents. They pay too
much rent; they can not get the necessities of life; they can not get the necessary things for their welfare and for their homes.
That is about all I have to say. The CHAIRMAN. Does any member of the committee wish to ask him any questions?
Mr. RYAN. Mr. Chairman, I want to supplement my testimony. These stores rented by Mr. Carrick rent for these amounts: The first store rents for $250, and they average about $200. That is about $1,400 a month, a $16,000 increase to the rentals of that property within a year.
STATEMENT OF MRS. F. W. PEARSON
(The witness was sworn by the chairman.)
Mrs. PEARSON. At the Fontanet Courts now, but I want to testify about 1410. Euclid Street and have nothing to say about Fontanet Courts.
We moved here eleven years ago, Mr. Pearson and I, and we went to 1410 Euclid, the Vista. It is right across the street from Judge Harlan's old home. We moved in there and we paid $28 a month rent for one year, then they raised it to $32.50. Mr. Henshaw owned it then and Mrs. Fraser, his sister-in-law, ran the thing for him, which was done very nicely. Then Mr. Harry Wardman was the agent; at least we paid our checks to him. Then they sold it to Mr. Ramsey, who owned the Fairmont School, and he moved over into Judge Harlan's place and bought ours and wanted us to get out because he wanted it for his school. But we could not do it; we all had leases, and we stayed. Then he traded it back to Harry Wardman for another place for his school, as that did not pay, and then sold that to the synagogue, but not our apartment. He sold then to Mrs. Berry who lives across the street.
Then she raised our rent from $32 to $35, which was all right; then she raised it to $65. We were on the third floor, with no elevator or anything. She served notice upon us, but we did not pay any attention to it because we had a lease. Then when she raised it she served notice on us twice. Then we went to the rent commissioners, and when she found out that we went to the rent commissioners she came up and wanted us to sign a lease for $42.50 for a year, and Mr. Pearson did not know whether he would sign it or not, and I said, “ You sign it," for I knew the rent commissioners would want to split the difference between $35 and $65. So he signed the lease for $42.50, and when the rent commissioners brought in a finding of $47.50 she was very angry and came and served us notice again. We did not pay any attention to it and she went to the rent commissioners then, and Mr. Sinclair, Mr. Oyster, and Mrs. Taylor were on it then and they threw it out. They said, “You ought to know what you want for your apartment, and if you signed a lease for $42.50 for a year, that ends it.”. Then they went to the municipal court and they threw it out and the higher court threw it out, and some of them paid the increase, and then Mr. Berry, her brother-in-law, bought the property; Mr. William D. Berry of Fairmont and University Place, 1455 Fairmont. He lives in a big stone house.