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Care Home contracts

The law provides greater protection for consumers when they enter into contracts with businesses than it does when businesses contract with other businesses.

Residential care home clients are invariably “customers” and not businesses. So these additional protections need to be kept in mind when drafting and preparing the contractual terms which are to govern the relationship between the residential care home and its residents.

For example, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) provides that the terms in a consumer contract must be written in plain and intelligible language. Legal jargon should be avoided. Moreover, they must be fair for the consumer. Any terms which fail to satisfy these requirements will not be binding on the customer. In addition, if and when it is intended that the customer will contract at a distance, for example on line, as opposed to signing the contract on the business premises, in this case at the residential care home itself, additional procedural requirements need to be followed.

Consequently it is imperative that residential care homes ensure that the contracts with their residents are appropriately worded and comply with the law. Not only will this guard against any unwelcome surprises but it is good practice and a sensible precaution to protect the reputation and standing of the care home in question.

Similarly, care homes like other businesses are now obliged to provide a range of information when dealing with consumers. Certain information must be included in advertisements or commercial communications, other information must be provided pre-contract.

Are you fulfilling your obligations in this regard?

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recently published its initial findings as part of its examination as to whether the residential care home sector is working well for elderly people. The CMA has raised several concerns, including but not limited to the lack of information about pricing which is provided to care home residents, the removal of residents by the care homes on short notice and the adoption by care homes of complaints procedures which are difficult for residents to understand and follow. Consequently, the CMA has opened a consumer protection case to investigate these matters and concerns that the CMA has that some care homes may be breaking consumer law. As a result, this sector is likely to be the subject of increased and continuing media scrutiny.

Do your contracts comply with the law? Do your staff know what they should be doing and when?

These are the questions you should be asking and now is the time to have your care home’s contractual terms and conditions reviewed. Our lawyers have extensive experience in drafting and reviewing terms and conditions and are here to help you, so please do not hesitate to call us on 0800 042 0700 or email enquiries@lindermyers.co.uk

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