United States v. Wittek
337 U.S. 346 (1949)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Wittek, 337 U.S. 346 (1949)

United States v. Wittek

No. 473

Argued April 20-21, 1949

Decided June 13, 1949

337 U.S. 346

Syllabus

The District of Columbia Emergency Rent Act of December 2, 1941, 55 Stat. 788, as amended, is not applicable to the United States as landlord of Government owned defense housing in the District of Columbia. Pp. 336 U. S. 347-368.

1. The Act makes no distinction between the United States as a landlord of defense housing and as a landlord of low rent housing; and, when the circumstances are appreciated, it is practically inconceivable that Congress would have subjected its Government owned low rent housing in the District of Columbia to the control prescribed by the District of Columbia Emergency Rent Act in addition to the control prescribed by existing legislation and that of the presidentially designated administrators of low rent housing in the District of Columbia. Pp. 336 U. S. 351-358.

2. The Act contains no express reference to the United States as a landlord or to its application to Government owned housing of any kind; rental rates in Government owned defense housing were under complete governmental control; it appears to have been enacted as a temporary measure supplementing, rather than superseding, the contribution already being made by the permanent federal housing authorities toward meeting the housing crisis, and there was no need to apply to Government owned defense housing the new rent control that it imposed upon privately owned housing. Pp. 336 U. S. 358-363.

3. Both the form and the practical operation of the National Emergency Price Control Act indicate that Congress did not seek by the District of Columbia Emergency Rent Act to place Government owned housing under a local rent administrator. Pp. 336 U. S. 364-367.

4. The conclusion here reached is supported by the fact that the District Administrator of Rent Control has taken no part in this proceeding, and there is no evidence that he has sought at any time to exercise jurisdiction over the United States as a landlord of either low rent housing or defense housing. P. 336 U. S. 368.

83 U.S.App.D.C. 377, 171 F.2d 8, reversed.

Page 337 U. S. 347

The Municipal Court for the District of Columbia found that the District of Columbia Emergency Rent Act was not applicable to the United States, and ordered possession of premises owned by it in a defense housing project in the District of Columbia given to the United States. The Municipal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed. 75 Wash.Law Rep. 982, 54 A.2d 747. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed. 83 U.S.App.D.C. 377, 171 F.2d 8. This Court granted certiorari. 336 U.S. 931. Reversed, p. 336 U. S. 368.

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