Richard Martin Helm brought action for rent overcharges against Elizabeth R. Krapf, landlord. The Superior Court, Herrmann, J., held that landlord's charges for privileges, services and facilities which were connected with use or occupancy of rental unit, constituted rent overcharges, and treble damages were recoverable.
Judgment for plaintiff.
[46 Del. 163] George T. Coulson (of Morris, Steel, Nichols & Arsht), of Wilmington, for the plaintiff.
Harold N. Green, of Wilmington, for the defendant.
HERRMANN, J., sitting.
This is an action for liquidated damages for rent overcharges brought under the provisions of the Housing and Rent Act of 1947, as amended, 63 Stat. 27, 50 U.S.C.A.Appendix, § 1895.
On or about September 1, 1949, the defendant rented to the plaintiff an apartment located on the second floor of the house in which the defendant resided in Newark, Delaware. The maximum legal rental for the apartment, under the Federal Rent Control law and the Regulations promulgated thereunder, was $40 per month. During the period September 1, 1949 to May 30, 1950, the plaintiff paid of the defendant the sum of $65 per month.
[46 Del. 164] The plaintiff contends that the payment of $65 per month constituted rent for the housing accommodations, including certain privileges, services and facilities connected with the use or occupancy thereof. The defendant contends that only $40 of the monthly payment of $65 was for rent for the apartment; that the balance of $25 per month represented compensation for privileges, services and facilities which were furnished by the defendant to the plaintiff but which were not ‘ connected with the use or occupancy of the housing accommodations', within the meaning of those terms as used in the Federal Rent Control Law and pertinent Regulations.
The privileges, services and facilities here involved, and the defendant's assessment of charges, were as follows:
1. The use of a storage room on the third floor of the house, access to which required passage through the apartment rented by the plaintiff. For this the defendant contends she charged $5 per month.
2. The use of the defendant's telephone located in the portion of the premises occupied by the defendant. For this the defendant says the plaintiff was charged $2 per month.
3. The use of a chicken house and a portion of the garden or yard for the housing of the plaintiff's dogs. For this the defendant avers the charge was $5 per month.
4. Additional electricity for the plaintiff's refrigerator and for the storage room. For this the defendant asserts the plaintiff paid $8 per month.
5. Gas for heating. For this the defendant states that $5 per month was charged.
The Registration Statement filed in the local Area Rent Office for the rental unit here involved indicated that heat, electricity and a garage were included as services and facilities connected with the use of the apartment. It appears that, in addition to the aforementioned charges, the plaintiff was obliged to pay a [46
Del. 165] monthly charge of $3.50 during the period in which he utilized the garage.
The questions for determination here are: (1) whether the charges made by the defendant constituted attempted evasion and a violation of the Federal Rent Control Law and the Regulations issued pursuant thereto; and (2) if so, whether the violation was wilful or the result of failure to take practicable precautions ...