BE 210058-RT
                                  STATE OF NEW YORK
                      DIVISION OF HOUSING AND COMMUNITY RENEWAL
                            OFFICE OF RENT ADMINISTRATION
                                     GERTZ PLAZA
                               92-31 UNION HALL STREET 
                               JAMAICA, NEW YORK 11433


          -----------------------------------x
          IN THE MATTER OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE     ADMINISTRATIVE REVIEW
          APPEAL OF                               DOCKET NO.:  
                                                  BE 210058-RT    
                 VICTORINE   ROONEY,                  DRO    DOCKET    NO.:
                                                  K-3105533-R
                                   PETITIONER     CDR 29,903     
          -----------------------------------x


            ORDER AND OPINION DENYING PETITION FOR ADMINISTRATIVE REVIEW


          On May 15, 1987, the above-named petitioner-tenant filed a  Peti-
          tion for Administrative Review  against  an  order  of  the  Rent
          Administrator issued April 15, 1987.  The order concerned housing 
          accommodations known as Apartment 8-A located at 1401 Elm Avenue, 
          Brooklyn, New York.  The Administrator found that the tenant  had
          been overcharged.

          The Commissioner has reviewed the record and carefully considered 
          that portion relevant to the issues raised by this appeal.
           
          The tenant commenced this  proceeding  by  filing  an  overcharge
          complaint on February 29, 1984 in which she stated that she moved 
          into the subject apartment on September 1, 1982 pursuant to a  14
          month lease at a rental of $235.38 per month.

          The tenant's complaint was served on the  owner  on  October  15,
          1984 and on October 29,  1984,  the  owner  submitted  an  answer
          including a  Report  of  Statutory  Decontrol  showing  that  the
          controlled tenant vacated on February 28, 1978, a complete set of 
          leases, and a copy of a letter dated October 22,  1984  from  the
          owner to the  tenant  acknowledging  that  the  tenant  had  been
          overcharged due  to  a  clerical  error  made  in  computing  the
          tenant's vacancy rent.  The owner also advised the tenant in this 
          letter that her rent  was  being  reduced  to  $246.22  effective
          November 1984 and that a refund check of $141.32 was enclosed.

          The Administrator determined that the tenant had been overcharged 
          beginning with the tenant' first lease and directed the owner  to
          refund to the  tenant  $348.94  which  reflected  the  refund  of
          $141.32 but included excess security and interest on  overcharges


          collected after April 1, 1984.  On  April  23,  1987,  the  owner
          advised the Division by letter  that  pursuant  to  the  Adminis-
          trator's order, the owner had refunded $348.94 to the tenant.   A
          copy of the refund check was enclosed.

          In the petition for administrative review,  the  tenant  contends
          that the Administrator's order  should  be  modified  to  include






          BE 210058-RT
          treble damages because the owner did not establish that the over 
          charge was not willful.  

          The owner answers and asserts that an error w s  made  in  calcu-
          lating the rent for which the owner should  not  be  unreasonably
          penalized in view of the fact that the error  was  corrected  and
          the tenant was reimbursed.   The  owner  lists  other  overcharge
          proceedings filed by other tenants in  buildings  owned  by  this
          owner in which the  Division  determined  that  the  rents  being
          charged were lawful.  The owner asserts that this  establishes  a
          pattern of consistently charging the legal rent  and  a  lack  of
          willful overcharging.

          The owner did not file its own petition.

          After careful consideration, the Commissioner is of  the  opinion
          that the tenant's petition should be denied.  

          Section 2526.1(a)(1) of the Rent Stabilization Code provides  for
          the penalty of treble damages on  overcharges  unless  the  owner
          establishes by a preponderance of the  evidence  that  the  over-
          charge was not willful.  The Division's position on the  applica-
          tion of treble damages upon the finding of a rent overcharge  was
          clarified in Policy Statement 89-2 which describes,  inter  alia,
          certain circumstances in which the  burden  of  proof  in  estab-
          lishing lack of willfulness will be  deemed  to  have  been  met.
          One such situation is where an owner adjusts the rent on  his  or
          her own within the time afforded to interpose an  answer  to  the
          proceeding and submits proof to the  DHCR  that  he  or  she  has
          tendered, in good faith, to the  tenant  a  full  refund  of  all
          excess rent collected, plus interest.

          In the instant case, the owner was served with the tenant s  com-
          plaint on October 15, 1984 and on October 29, 1984, before the 20 
          days within which to answer had expired, the owner  adjusted  the
          tenant's rent to what it believed to be the lawful rent and  sub-
          mitted proof that $141.32 was refunded to  the  tenant.  Although
          the Administrator's order directed the owner to refund additional 
          overcharges, a careful review of the Rent Calculation  chart  re-
          veals that certain errors were made in the tenant's favor.   With
          the additional refund made by the owner subsequent to the  Admin-
          istrator's order, the tenant may have received a refund in excess 


          of what was due her.  In view of the owner's apparent good  faith
          efforts to charge a lawful rent and to make  appropriate  refunds
          of overcharges, the owner had adequately established  a  lack  of
          willfulness and an imposition of treble damages is  inappropriate
          and unwarranted. 


          THEREFORE, pursuant to the Rent Stabilization Law and Code, it is

          ORDERED, that this petition be, and the same  hereby  is,  denied
          and that the Rent Administrator's order be, and the  same  hereby
          is, affirmed.


          ISSUED:






          BE 210058-RT
               

                                                   ELLIOT SANDER
                                                   Deputy Commissioner





    

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