Rugby man handed landlord ban after putting tenants life at risk

Aj's Bar on Dunchurch Road. Photo from Google Street View.
Aj's Bar on Dunchurch Road. Photo from Google Street View.

A Rugby man who rented out rooms above a town centre bar has been banned from being a landlord after putting the lives of his tenants at risk.

Dean Dunkley, 41 of Dunchurch Road, was also handed a £41,000 legal bill by magistrates after he was found guilty of a string of offences - including obstructing the investigation carried out by Rugby Borough Council’s housing enforcement team.

Dunkley was responsible for running AJ’s Bar, a four-storey building in Dunchurch Road, which was formerly the Royal Oak public house.

He was fined nearly £5,000 in April 2016 after pleading guilty to 25 offences under the Housing Act 2004.

The prosecution was brought by the council after an inspection of the property revealed a range of safety breaches and Dunkley failed to carry out repairs despite repeated warnings.

Following the prosecution, the council’s housing enforcement team obtained a warrant to carry out a further inspection of the property in August.

A housing enforcement officer discovered a host of safety issues, including faulty fire doors, broken electric sockets, holes in windows and a fridge obstructing an emergency exit.

Other issues included a communal kitchen with no fire detection, broken emergency lighting and a WC with no door.

Following the inspection, the officer contacted Dunkley to ask who had responsibility for managing the property.

He replied: “It’s your job to find out.”

Dunkley also failed to attend an interview under caution with the council, and failed to produce gas and electricity safety certificates, and a fire detection alarm certificate, for the property.

His case was heard in his absence at Nuneaton Justice Centre on Tuesday (2 May).

Magistrates heard 15 tenants occupied the property’s ten bedrooms at the time of the inspection, and Dunkley was collecting an estimated £820 a week in rent.

The 41-year-old was found guilty of all 19 charges and was fined a total of £39,000 - including £8,000 fines for operating a HMO without a licence and obstructing the council’s investigation.

He was also ordered to pay £2,264 costs and a £170 victim surcharge.

Magistrates also granted the council’s application to issue Dunkley with a Criminal Behaviour Order, which bans him from being involved in letting or managing a residential property in the borough until May 2019.

In addition, the Criminal Behaviour Order states Dunkley must secure permission from the council before appointing an agent to let or manage a residential property on his behalf.

Speaking after the hearing, Sean Lawson, Rugby Borough Council’s head of environment and public realm, said: “We’re happy to work with landlords to explain the legislation surrounding HMOs and offer advice on work which needs to be carried out in order for a property to meet safety standards.

“But our priority has to be the safety of tenants and, when a landlord shows complete contempt for the law, we have no hesitation in taking the case to court.

“The severity of the fines imposed by magistrates in this case, together with the issuing of a Criminal Behaviour Order, shows no landlord can afford to cut corners when it comes to ensuring the safety of tenants.”

Tenants with concerns over conditions at a rented property can report the matter to the council anonymously by completing the online form at www.rugby.gov.uk/housingenforcement

Landlords who need advice on HMO regulations can contact the council’s housing enforcement team on 01788 533882 or email hen@rugby.gov.uk