EH 610013 RO

                                  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  SJR No. 6264
          IN THE MATTER OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE :  ADMINISTRATIVE REVIEW
          APPEAL OF                              DOCKET NO. EH 610013 RO


                                              :  DISTRICT RENT OFFICE
               Sterling Apartments,              DOCKET NO. BE 610260-R
                                                
                                                                              
                                                 Tenants: Hector & Judy       
                                                            Castro
                                   PETITIONER :
          ------------------------------------X                             


             ORDER AND OPINION DENYING PETITION FOR ADMINISTRATIVE REVIEW


          On August 1, 1990, the above-named owner filed a petition for 
          administrative review of an order issued on June 22, 1990, by the 
          Rent Administrator in Jamaica, concerning the housing accommodations 
          known as 1575 Thieriot Avenue, Bronx, New York, Apartment No. 2G, 
          wherein the Rent Administrator determined that the owner had 
          overcharged the tenants.

          The above-named Division initially dismissed the aforementioned 
          petition as not timely filed.  After the owner had petitioned the 
          Supreme Court under Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules, 
          the owner and the Division stipulated that the proceeding be 
          "remanded to the [Division's] Office of Rent Administration for a 
          determination of Petitioner's Petition for Administrative Review on 
          the merits."  The stipulation, dated May 4, 1992, was then issued as 
          an order by Justice Joscelyn Smith.

          The proceeding had originated in May of 1987, with the filing of the 
          tenants' Complaint of Rent Overcharge.  In response the owner stated 
          in pertinent part that the rent was duly registered in 1986 as $400 
          per month, which became the legal rent as of 90 days after that 
          registration (the tenant at that time, C. Barreto, not having 
          objected thereto), and that other lawful increases added to that 
          base rent had resulted in no overcharge.

          In the above-referenced District Rent Office order, the Rent 
          Administrator established the rent as $315.10 through July 31, 1990, 
          determined that the tenants had been overcharged, and directed a 
          refund of $24,497.45, including treble damages on overcharges 
          collected on and after April 1, 1984. 



          In this petition the owner repeats the argument made before the 
          Administrator, adding the further arguments that the tenants' 







          EH 610013 RO

          complaint was time-barred pursuant to C.P.L.R. Section 213(a) and 
          that treble damages should not have been assessed in that there was 
          no evidence of willfulness, DHCR has the burden of proving 
          willfulness and a mistake was made in the office records which 
          listed the subject apartment as rent controlled.

          (On July 30, 1992, petitioner wrote to the Division that "[p]ursuant 
          to the Stipulation of Remit" that resulted in the instant remand to 
          the Commissioner, petitioner "is permitted to file an amended 
          P.A.R."   Attached to that letter were totally new arguments and an 
          additional rental history.  The Commissioner will not consider this 
          "amended P.A.R." in making the instant determination.  Amendments to 
          PARs are either of right or for "good cause shown."  Rent 
          Stabilization Code Section 2527.10(a).  The time (20 days from 
          notice of the filing to the adverse party) for amendments of right 
          having long passed, the only question is whether good cause to allow 
          the amendment has here been "shown."  Petitioner's only attempt to 
          do so consists of the above-quoted assertion that the aforementioned 
          stipulation included permission to file an amended PAR.  That simple 
          stipulation, however, did nothing more than remand the proceeding 
          "for a determination of Petitioner's [PAR] on the merits" 
          ("petitioner's PAR," of course, being a document that already 
          existed at that time).  In addition this is not a de novo proceeding 
          and a rental history submitted for the first time on appeal cannot 
          properly be considered.  In sum, no good cause has been shown to 
          allow the amendment now attempted by petitioner, and this order and 
          opinion therefore determines the merits of the original PAR herein).

          The Commissioner is of the opinion that this petition should be 
          denied.

          Petitioner's first argument, regarding the unchallenged 1986 
          registration, is based on a misinterpretation of the law.  While 
          failure to timely object to the registered rent for 1984 establishes 
          same as the base rent, for overcharge complaints filed in subsequent 
          years, the base rent is established as the rent shown in the annual 
          registration filed four years prior to the most recent registration 
          or, if more recently filed, the initial registration.  The 
          Administrator herein properly used the unchallenged 1984 
          registration to establish the base rent since the tenants filed 
          their overcharge complaint in 1987 -- within four years of the 
          initial 1984 registration.

          The owner next argues that Section 213(a) of the Civil Practice Law 
          and Rules provides that an "action" on a residential rent overcharge 
          must be commenced within four years of that overcharge, that the 
          complaint herein to this Division is not an "action," and that 
          therefore, four years having passed, any complaint about the 
          overcharge herein is time-barred.  That argument, however, is not 
          applicable herein.  The CPLR governs over "judicial proceedings" in 
          "courts" before "judges."  CPLR Section 101.  A "judicial 
          proceeding," moreover, is defined in Section 105(d) as the 
          prosecution of an independent application "to a court" for relief.  
          Thus the statute cited by petitioner did not control the filing of 
          the tenants' complaint.  Under legislation and regulations that do 
          govern overcharge complaints to the Division, the Administrator was 
          correct in accepting and processing the instant one.



          EH 610013 RO

          The final assignment of error states first that the burden of proof 
          as to the willfulness of an overcharge is on the Division, and then 
          that the facts herein support "the owner's explanation that a 
          mistake was made in the office records which listed the apartment as 
          Rent Controlled, and therefore subject to vacancy decontrol 
          increases which brought the rental amount up to a fair market value 
          of $400.00 as of October, 1985, when [the previous tenant] took 
          occupancy."  Neither branch of this argument, however, survives 
          scrutiny, as (a) the burden of proof as to willfulness is on the 
          owner, Rent Stabilization Code, Section 2526.1 and (b) nothing in 
          the record (including the owner's submissions of July 28, 1987 and 
          June 5, 1990) even resembles the aforementioned "explanation."  Thus 
          the petition provides no basis to disturb the imposition of treble 
          damages.

          THEREFORE, in accordance with the Rent Stabilization Law and Code, 
          it is

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

          ISSUED:

                                                                        
                                          JOSEPH A. D'AGOSTA
                                          Acting Deputy Commissioner






    

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