Signing a contract with your care home is essential to ensure your rights are protected and that the care home can be held legally accountable for the services it provides to you.
The contract will include all information regarding your fees, what services you are entitled to, the terms of your stay and all other obligations both you and the care home must follow.
This guide outlines what you need to know about care home contracts, including terms of service, who the contract is between, fees and payments, occupancy and leaving the home.
The contract is between the care home and the person paying for the service, which will be different depending on whether the care is funded by the local authority (state funded), the resident themselves and if a third party is paying top-up fees.
If your local authority is funding your care, the contract will be between the care home and the local authority. If you pay for the care yourself, the contract will be between you and the care home.
If your care is funded by the local authority, you may not be able to choose which care home you move into. But, if you want to live in a more expensive care home, a third party, such as a family member, can pay top-up fees to make this happen. In this instance, there will be two contracts. One between the local authority and the care home, and one between the care home and the person paying the top-up fees.
If the care home you are interested in offers a trial period, the details of this will be in your contract. The care home may offer a 30-day trial period to ensure they can offer you the level of care that you need while also giving you the opportunity to settle in before committing fully.
You may not feel that the care home is for you, or the care home is unable to provide you with the level of care you require. During the trial period, you will normally be able to terminate the contract without any additional fees if you give the home a decent amount of notice.
The types of services and care you can expect to receive during your stay will be outlined in the contract, as well as details of the process in the event your care needs change and your care plan needs to be adjusted.
In a residential care home, the contract may state that they will provide you with food, heat, light, accommodation, laundry and reasonable personal care normally required by an older person. You may at some point need help with tasks you were previously able to do yourself. This might come with additional charges, such as if you need to move to a different room with more facilities.
The contract will also outline the cost of the service, how payments will be made, and by whom. This includes any deposit required, weekly fees, additional charges, top-up fees and notice period for any increases.
A care home may have an annual fee increase to cover predictable costs and require payment of four weeks’ fees in advance of admission. Also, you may have to make payments in advance each week and cover extra costs of hairdressing, toiletries or meals.
It’s crucial that you fully understand these terms to ensure that you will be able to afford living at the care home.
The contract will tell you what is and just as important, what is not covered by the care home’s insurance. For instance, you may be allowed to bring your own furniture, but the care home may not provide insurance for such items.
The contract will also cover the type of accommodation, for example single bedroom with en-suite facilities.
The provider holds you to account for things that are their fault
The care home increasing your fees unexpectedly
Not giving the resident important information
Charging fees for an extended period of time following a resident’s death
The care home contract will cover the topic of 'absence'. Details of what happens to your fees and accommodation while you are absent from the home due to, for example, a hospital visit or holiday.
You may be able to keep your room for a number of weeks, the care home may offer you a discount due to the savings they are likely to make as a result of your absence, such as reduced food, heating and lighting costs.
If you or the care home choose to terminate the contract for whatever reason, the contract will outline the process for this, including notice periods, fees, removing your belongings and more.
If you are moving out of the home and want to cancel the contract, you must give the care home notice as outlined in the contract.
In the event of death, residential fees may continue to be charged for a few days, and family members and relatives may have to clear the room on their own.
In a situation where the care home asks you to leave and wishes to terminate your contract, they must clearly and upfront explain the reasons why. The reasons for termination must be valid, as set out by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). This could happen if the resident has repeatedly not paid their fees, or the care home can no longer meet the resident’s needs.
In late 2018, the CMA released guidance for care homes regarding consumer rights for residents and their families. It states that care homes across all UK nations are required to present you with key information to help you decide on whether to move in or not. Important information, such as the care home’s fees, must be clearly highlighted, easily accessible and not hidden.
In the same vein, care home contracts must be written clearly and simply to ensure residents and/or their representative are able to easily understand their rights and responsibilities. In accordance with consumer law, if the contract is unfair, it will not be valid. Unfair contractual terms are not legally enforceable.
A contract is unfair when it puts the resident and/or their representative at an unfair disadvantage, such as giving the care provider more rights than you as a resident.
If a resident wishes to make a complaint, the care home’s formal complaints procedure should be outlined in the contract.
You always have the right to make a complaint about your care or the way you are being treated. The care home is obligated to make it easy for you to complain and staff must never discourage you from doing so.