Landlord wants to run Faye Dunaway out of town in row over rent

  • @dusborne

Faye Dunaway, the Oscar-winning actress best-known for her role in Bonnie and Clyde, would be well advised to jump in whatever getaway car she has at hand and drive cross-country to New York, lest she be thrown out of her apartment.

Dunaway, who turned 70 earlier this year, is being sued by her landlord; he claims she is fraudulently benefiting from New York rent-control laws under which she is paying only $1,048 (£640) a month for her one-bedroom pad on the Upper East Side, perhaps just half the regular market rate.

The problem, according to her landlord, is that rent control is only supposed to be available to those who use their apartments as their primary residences. In court papers filed in the Manhattan housing court this week, the plaintiff suggests the actress spends most of her time not under his roof but in West Hollywood in California.

In theory, Dunaway, whose other top-billing roles were in the films Chinatown, Network, The Thomas Crown Affair and The Champ, can show up for her first hearing scheduled for next Thursday at 2pm. Or she could send her son, Liam Dunaway O'Neill – who is from her marriage to the British photographer, Terry O'Neill – since he is listed as a sub-tenant on the lease. He also has his name alongside hers on the door buzzer.

Among New Yorkers, few things are more coveted than having the keys to one of the million rent-controlled apartments left in the city. But the rules about who should have them are complicated and strict. Dunaway has had the lease to hers, in a dingy building on East 78th Street with yellow bricks and metal fire-escape ladders on the façade, since 1994. Evidently, relations with the landlord have been strained before. In 2009 she was cited in another filing to civil court for non-payment of her reduced rate. That case was resolved. This time, the landlord may be more determined. The filing cites evidence that she is not really based in New York, as she claims, and that the apartment is thus being used, illegally, merely as a pied-à-terre for her and her son. The plaintiff claims to have evidence to prove it.

His filing points to traffic tickets she has received in West Hollywood and the fact that her car and voter registrations are there. Hiring detectives to snoop on tenants they suspect of exploiting the rental-control system is common practice among New York landlords, who have a clear incentive. Once a tenant is turfed out of a rent-controlled spot they generally replace them with someone paying the full market price.

No one from either side has so far commented on the Dunaway case.

Tenancy disagreements

* Bianca Jagger quarrelled with her landlord for years before she was evicted from her rent-stabilised Park Avenue apartment in 2007. She tried to sue her landlord, claiming the flat was plagued by "toxic mould", but was forced to leave as it emerged it was not her main residence.

* Michael Douglas's son Cameron was evicted from his Los Angeles home in 2009 when he failed to pay his $4,200 (£2,860) monthly rent. The 32-year-old's father reportedly repaid some rent, but not enough to prevent the eviction.

* Madonna was threatened with eviction from her New York apartment in 2009, after complaints about her noisy gatherings, which caused "vibration to pour through the walls, ceilings and radiators".