Published On: Mon, May 13th, 2024
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‘Real-life Basil Fawlty’ ran ‘absolute dump’ guest house | UK | News

A photo of John Dixon Hart

John Dixon Hart ran an ‘unclean’ guest house. (Image: HullLive/Donna Clifford)

A hotelier owner who was branded “Basil Fawlty” due to his rudeness to guests used misleading advertising to claim that his “absolute dump” of a guest house was up to either a three or four-star standard.

John Dixon Hart, 60, used dubious information and photos to give a false impression that his guest house was to a higher standard than it was.

Guests complained about tobacco and “musty” smells, “shabby” and unclean rooms, “stained” and “gruesome” bedding, security worries as well as Hart’s unwelcoming behaviour that earned him comparisons to 70s sitcom character Basil Fawlty – an iconic British comedy figure known for his rudeness to guests.

Hull Crown Court was told the owner did not have the “minimum standards required of hygiene, health and safety, customer service and overall presentation” at the “tatty and run down” guest house.

A photo of Hart outside Hull Crown Court

John Dixon Hart appeared in court in Hull (Image: HullLive/Donna Clifford)

Misleading advertising, including pictures, was used on three websites, Expedia, Laterooms and

Hart admitted to six offences involving misleading commercial practices between June 1, 2021, and March 22, 2022.

He and the guest house had been due to face a 10-day trial but Hart admitted six of the offences, involving unfair commercial practices and misleading actions.

The six charges against Beverley Guest House Ltd were dropped, reports the Mirror.

Michele Stuart-Lofthouse, the prosecutor, revealed that Hart was the sole director of Minster Garth guest house. Trading standards officers from East Riding of Yorkshire Council received a series of complaints in 2021 and 2022 about the substandard service at the establishment.

A photo of John Dixon Hart

John Hart has been liked to Basil Fawlty (Image: HullLive/Donna Clifford)

Guests’ phone calls went unanswered and the interior of the accommodation was described as “shabby”. One woman expressed concern over a faulty door catch and a non-functioning fire alarm.

One disgruntled guest complained: “It was an absolute dump. The door handle was missing.”

She also noted “threadbare” carpets, “stained” bedding, a shower curtain hanging off its rail, missing bathroom tiles, mouse droppings in a drawer and dead insects in window areas.

Shocking images were also captured of the state of the guest house. Judge Mark Bury said: “Pretty gruesome photographs of some bedding. Shower areas leave a lot to be desired.”

Hart’s rudeness, described by guests as “extremely unwelcoming”, was another point of contention. Judge Bury remarked: “It’s a wonder he had any. He wasn’t particularly welcoming.”

Hart reportedly insulted one woman with an expletive and was rude during phone conversations. “He called some lady he had never met a ******* letch and told her she was a sponger,” Judge Bury recounted.

Misnter Garth

The Misnter Garth Guest House (Image: HullLive)

Judge Bury said: “It’s a great shame because it’s a good spot and this has huge potential to be a successful business.”

Despite the complaints, Hart had advertised the guest house as either a four-star or three-star establishment.

A local council investigator deemed that even a one-star rating would be overly “flattering.”

Yet Judge Bury said: “He did admit that his rating was somewhat optimistic. Mr Hart wasn’t very keen on giving people refunds.

“It’s your responsibility to make sure that all the advertisements are accurate. How you managed to keep it going, I have no idea. I have heard how you treated guests. I am absolutely staggered you had any. I wouldn’t even have dreamed of staying in a guest house like that.”

In response, Hart claimed: “It’s the price. We are always the cheapest in Beverley.”

He explained that he endured a “lot of personal stress and upset” after his wife left him, causing him to neglect the business.

However, he said elements are looking up: “I wasn’t paying attention to the business,” but since reconciling with his wife and making much-needed improvements to the guest house, the situation has virtually improved.

“My dream is to let my two boys and stepson carry it forward,” Hart expressed. His sons were aged 10 and eight and his stepson, aged “23 or 24” were helping.

“There have been quite a few more positive reviews recently,” Hart mentioned while also revealing some facelifts including redecorating and the installment of new carpets. “I had the whole place redecorated last year and decent carpeting. I regularly replace the bedding.”

However, Judge Bury responded with intrigue: “Washing it would help.”

John Hart

John Hart outside court. (Image: HullLive/Donna Clifford)

Hart defended himself by saying: “My wife does help. The window frames have been repainted. I don’t think there is a broken pane in the whole house and I have done all these things single-handedly.”

“A reasonable person would arrive and think: ‘This is good value for money’. If you look at the reviews, we are getting some tens and nines and sevens regularly. They are getting a room that they ought to be paying double for. It has the potential to be a gold mine. I am hoping that my sons can take it over. We’ll see what happens. I am working hard to that effect.”

Hart claimed that he had only a “meagre income” from the guest house because of costs and bills and that he “lost a lot of money last year” but he added: “Because it is such a fantastic building with such fantastic potential, I am desperate to try to find a way around it.”

Judge Bury said: “The idea is that you get back on your feet and run this guest house as it should be and not as Basil Fawlty. You are charging reasonable rates so people should not expect The Ritz.”

“They should expect reasonable facilities and, from you, politeness. More recently, your guests have been much happier. If you continue that, it’s like a gold mine, that place. It’s in a desirable area in a desirable market town and should attract many guests.”

Judge Bury said: “He advertised it initially as a four-star residence. It doesn’t merit one star. These guests either didn’t stay because it was, in their words, a dump or they made complaints. It’s quite disturbing.”

“He still charges reasonably modest rates and so people shouldn’t expect The Connaught. They should, however, expect basic standards. Minster Garth in Beverley is a potentially lucrative business,” Judge Bury stated. “It’s in a charming spot in a charming market town, so Mr Hart wants to keep it going, hoping to pass it on to his family. He has the opportunity to keep it going but he has to stay off the drink.”

Hart was incarcerated last August for 22 weeks due to public disorder and harassment offences. Despite being locked up for just over a month, he reported positive developments after his release.

“There’s absolutely no public interest in sending you back there,” declared Judge Bury. An update on Hart’s progress since his freedom turned out to be “most impressive”, according to the judge.

“He has given up drinking apart from the occasional glass of wine,” Judge Bury added.

Hart received a nine-month prison sentence that was suspended, along with 20 days of rehabilitation. In addition, he was directed to repay £729 in compensation to reimbursing disgruntled eight guests who had filed complaints.

“The people who stayed there had genuine grievances and I don’t see why they should not be paid,” voiced Judge Bury. Declaring it a “shocking set of circumstances”, the judge warned Hart: “Do not go to the off-licence and buy vodka. All I can do is wish you the best of luck with it.”

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