Care home providers are failing to provide contracts and may be breaking the law by failing to explain important terms, a Which? investigation has found.
The consumer watchdog said only four or 50 care homes it contacted sent contracts on request, with three of these including terms that could be considered unfair to residents.
Alex Hayman, Which? Managing Director of Public Markets, said: “It’s unacceptable that care homes are making it difficult for people to get hold of contracts and the terms and conditions they are signing up to when making such an important life decision.
“Far too many care home residents are hit with unexpected fees or contract terms – which can have far-reaching and devastating consequences for vulnerable people and their families at an already distressing time.
“The Government must now ensure the rules governing care homes are fit for purpose and adequately protect residents and their families in its upcoming response to the competition authority’s market study.”
Terms included in contracts included charging for fee for a month after death and the right of a care home to terminate a contract within 24-hours’ notice for “detrimental” behaviour.
Maria Mallaband announced it was dropping after death fees in January following an investigation by the CMA (see Maria Mallaband drops ‘after death’ fees following CMA action).
The CMA, meanwhile, warned care home providers last month they could be breaking the law by evicting residents whose families have made complaints (see Watchdog warns care homes over ‘revenge evictions’).
In a separate survey, only 54% of people consulted by Which? said they had been asked by their care home provider if they understood the contract they were signing.
More than a quarter (27%) said no-one from the care home checked they understood the terms and conditions.
Of those who said no checks were carried out, 31% said they did not understand the contract at all or very well and 31% said they did not know if the home would charge after death fees.
More than a third (34%) said they did not know if the home could evict a resident without notice.