In the last few years, the retirement homes sector has found itself coming under fire for a number of differing reasons, not least of which is the unfair practices which some providers of retirement housing have reportedly been using. The OFT (Office of Fair Trading) has been investigating these unfair providers recently, and the results they’ve brought back make for depressing reading.
What Did They Find?
They found a variety of problems, including (but sadly not limited to) appallingly steep transfer fees, costly charges on building insurance commission, a number of confusing service charges, maintenance contracts not being anywhere near a competitive rate, and a prevalence of unfairly high charges for wardens’ flats.
What Is Happening Next?
As a direct response to these aired concerns, the ARHM (Association of Retirement Housing Managers) teamed up with the charity Age UK to improve their code of practice. Sadly, this is a voluntary code, but it’s a step in the right direction at least.
Thankfully, however, they are letting the retired peoples (along with their families) to have their own say, allowing them to input their own fears and suggestions to help shape this new, improved code in order to make the retirement home industry’s practices a little better.
How Will This Change Things?
The ARHM is hoping that the code will make ripples, ripples which will turn into waves to be felt by the current Government. They are optimistic that it will be heard and thus influence a future change of policy, making certain things a legal requirement for retirement housing providers.
Hopefully, the rules which currently regulate the retirement homes sector will be changed and improved upon, as well as being more rigidly enforced. Voluntary will, if all goes well, become statutory.
The residents’ responses will be carefully listened to, and this should indicate whether or not more stringent measures are needed to battle those landlords who continue to ignore the needs and wishes of their leaseholders. The ARHM wants the code to be implemented consistently among its various members, and desires to see complaints being sorted out more swiftly and efficiently.
What Is in the Voluntary Code?
Currently, the voluntary code is filled with great advice, as well as guidance as to how to deal with certain issues and advice for what to do in a number of scenarios.
The Government is, understandably, somewhat reluctant to add more regulations to the framework, but many people within the retirement housing sector believe that some aspects do need regulating; if these facets were regulated by law, then older people would be able to find their homes to live in more easily, and would benefit from a fairer market (read: better competition).
The consultation has clearly been a rather positive step forward within the market, and it shows that the ARHM has its heart in the right place and wishes to do right by its leaseholders.
Ultimately, however, conditions will not improve unless the elderly take it upon themselves to have their own say, and to make sure that their voices are heard by the people who matter.