/ Health

Care home contracts: is the devil in the detail?


Arranging care can often come at the most difficult of times. Decisions may be forced without too much consideration. You finally settle on a home for your elderly relative or friend and sign on the dotted line, but did you read and understand the contract?

When we took a deeper look at care home contracts as part of our Care needs care now campaign, we found that some care homes may be breaking the law by failing to tell residents and their families about important terms and conditions.

Devilish details

Knowing and understanding the nitty-gritty details is important when signing any contract, but especially so when it’s for the care of a loved one. In our undercover investigation, we contacted 50 care homes and told them we were looking for care for an elderly relative.

We asked for documents including a sample contract, but fewer than one in ten actually shared that information with us. In fact, we only managed to get our hands on four contracts and three of them included terms that could be considered unfair to residents.

We’ve heard about contracts with dodgy terms such as charging fees for a month after the death of a resident and the right to terminate a contract with 24 hours’ notice for undefined ‘detrimental behaviour’.

Some of you may recall Pam sharing her story about her mother’s snap eviction after a number of years of living there. This coincidentally happened on the same day that Pam raised a complaint about staffing levels and care standards.

Pam’s story isn’t unique: of the thousands who’ve shared their personal experiences with us of arranging care, we’ve heard many hundreds of harrowing incidents of snap evictions and unfair charging.

One care arranger told us:

‘The manager said that due to the type of dementia our friend was suffering from, she would have to place them on 24/7, one-to-one care, at a cost of £15 per hour. The bills went up from £4,000 per month to over £15,000. We protested but were told that we had signed an agreement saying this could be done. The agreement gave no indication of the costs involved.’

Although most people who completed our care arranger’s survey claimed to understand their care home contract well, we saw mass confusion around important terms.

We found that 38% didn’t know if their care home could evict a resident without giving a reason, 34% weren’t aware that the home could evict a resident without giving the notice period stated in the contract, and 31% did not know if the home could charge fees after a resident vacated a room.

Fair care

When choosing a care home, the terms of the contract are of paramount importance. Before making any decision you should get hold of the contract to carefully examine the terms and conditions that you’re signing up to.

Care contracts advice

If a care home fails to provide prospective residents and their families with the important information they need to make an informed decision, then the care home risks being in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.

Care Needs Care Now

Our Care needs care now campaign is calling on the government to take action on the regulator’s recommendations to strengthen consumer protections for care home residents and relatives. This includes contracts, unfair fees and evictions.

The regulator agreed with many of our care campaign findings back in December and the government’s deadline to respond to these recommendations is next Tuesday.

Do you think the government should take action to better protect those in care and their care arrangers? Have you arranged care for an elderly relative or friend? Did you understand the contract and terms and conditions? How helpful was the care home throughout the process?


I believe that at the time someone is putting a loved one in care they are not in the frame of mind to ask the right questions or know what to ask. There are too many uncaring criminally neglectful care homes that is not going to change without sanctions and criminal charges . This is not even about money but basic human rights that we would afford to animals. If we live in a society which doesnt refuse to accept that this needs to stop then we should be ashamed

Jean Campbell says:
7 March 2018

My Husband is in a care home and has been for 5 years, the council take his state pension and his works pension and I pay a TOP UP fee, which is due to rise in April by how much I have no idea! His savings are now running out, he inherited some money from his brother that’s gone.

We worked hard all our lives, bought our own home, raised our own kids had camping holidays as that was we could afford, one trip aboard long after we retired to visit relatives, paid for by our kids and guess what. The council have put a charge on our house to make sure my husbands fees are paid!

I can’t move that’s if I wanted too, as to sell our home would not only just cover the cost of a small bungalow, I can’t go to live with one of my children and rent out my home, because I only own half of it, the Council own my husbands half, I have married rights to live there.

The whole system stinks, ‘the rich get richer’ has never been more true until now. Once you pass 3 score and ten you are definitely past the sell by/out lived date….. one place left in a box if there is enough money left to pay for our funerals.

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Care homes need to be got out of the clutches of vultures like this:

FT article – Care home crisis deepens under private equity owners.
Three of the largest – HC-One, Four Seasons and Care UK are in the hands of private equity, with their hallmark hefty debts and labyrinthian group structures, involving scores of subsidiary companies, many of which are listed offshore.

The complexity of Terra Firma group structures makes it almost impossible to check…. track directors’ pay or other profit distribution mechanisms.

Four Seasons is a subsidiary of Elli Investments, a larger holding group registered in Jersey. There are 187 companies in nine tiers, including 14 offshore, spread across at least six jurisdictions including the UK….

HC-One has an estimated £500m borrowings. Its accounts state its “immediate parent” is Jersey-based Libra Intermediate, while its “ultimate parent” is FC Skyfall, a Cayman Islands-based entity. There are 43 companies in all, of which six are offshore – four in Cayman, one in Jersey and one in an unknown jurisdiction.

The private equity-owned care home business Four Seasons which cares for 17,000 older and vulnerable residents is teetering on the brink of collapse……. loaded with more than £500m of debt by its owners, its £50,000,000 a year interest payments have become unsustainable.

There is something seriously wrong with a society that allows these vultures to be in charge of our elderly and care homes.

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Unlike many other writers, so far my experience with my mother’s care home has only been good. When she moved in they were running some kind of special offer, but I was only dimly aware of this because this was the place I wanted her in – close to me and evidently really well run with lots of staff. She has been very well cared for there as an assisted living resident. More recently, she has had a fall and developed delirium after surgery, so they have moved her back in to their “reminiscence” wing where she will get a greater level of care. I expected the fees to go up but was horrified when it initially looked like they would go up by £24000 a year, or £450 a week. Then, someone realised she had moved on the special offer – and that set of rates applies to her whole residency, so the increased care will only be an extra £100 a week. They have been wonderfully kind and always completely reasonable and approachable. I’v e never felt it was “all about the money”, even with fees around £4000 a month, because they have a really impressive staff:resident ratio, there is continuity in her care, with the same small team of careers looking after her personal care, and there is a real sense that they actually do care about her rather than just providing care for her. I reaslise how lucky we have been reading some of the other comments.

As a care home provider I was interested to read your article headed
“People are struggling to find a good care home when they need one and the government needs to address this”. I found it biased and not an accurate reflection on all care homes
Firstly what the government needs to address is the appalling lack of funding for care homes in general. Good care homes cannot exist unless they are funded Please bear in mind before only printing negative comments on care homes, that some of us care passionately about delivering good standards of care We are regulated above and beyond any other industry I can think of with inspections from chc, social services and ccg. All of whom have wonderful ideas on how to improve care and staffing but absolutely no interest or care on how this should be paid for
We have endured living wage increases, rise in consumables, pensions and a nightmare situation due to shortage of registered nurses During that time, unless clients are privately funded we have had no rise in fees paid to us by council and government bodies. We have had to withstand those costs I cannot speak on behalf of others homes but increases in fees may have been brought about by the client possibly needing one to one care ? This will come at a high price which somebody has to pay for. It is not reasonable to expect care homes to fund more intensive care

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My mother in law died mid May and the Nursing Home quickly submitted their bill for one months after death charge amounting to over £4000. I have phoned,emailed but the person in charge of accounts will not speak to me.I despair

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They never reply to any form of communication

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Bernadette – I think an examination of the Nursing Home’s terms and conditions accepted when your mother-in-law first entered the establishment would be a first step and might save extensive correspondence or legal action. If your mother-in-law’s estate has insufficient funds to meet the bill then the nursing home will have to whistle for it, unless the T&C’s required the nomination of a guarantor who also signed to accept liability. I would suggest this problem is passed to the executor or administrator of your mother-in-law’s estate to deal with; I suspect the nursing home management would not refuse to respond to them.

I am the Executor of my MIL’s estate.I have no problem in giving you the company details but wonder how this might help me

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Thanks but please don’t mention me.The company is Elderly Care Ltd and they are based in Wimbledon but the NH is in Eastbourne

Elderly Care Home Ltd

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