More than 100 elderly a week are having properties seized to pay for care home fees

  • Between 30,000-40,000 thought to lose homes this way every year

  • Coalition promised a cap on care costs by 2016, but this will only apply to bills of £72,000 or more
  • Those with assets of more than £23,250 are expected to pay their own way 
  • Critics say the system denies families their inheritances and punishes those who have worked hard, saved and paid mortgages 

By Steve Doughty, Social Affairs Correspondent For The Daily Mail

More than 100 homes a week are being seized from elderly people by councils to pay for their care home fees.

Families have been forced to hand over properties because local authorities are refusing to pay for the care.

The scale of the confiscations – revealed yesterday by a Freedom of Information request – will pile pressure on the Government to help the thousands of families forced to pay ruinous care fees.

More than 100 elderly a week are being forced to give up their houses to pay for care home fees

The Coalition promised a cap on care costs by 2016, but this will only apply to bills of £72,000 or more.

Up to that point, all those with assets of more than £23,250 are expected to pay their own way – even if that means selling the family home or agreeing to surrender it when their relative dies.

 Between 30,000 and 40,000 people a year are thought to lose their homes this way.

Critics say the system denies families their inheritances and punishes those who have worked hard, saved and paid mortgages.

The figures – gathered by the finance firm NFU Mutual – showed that over the past five years councils have taken legal action to secure a share in more than 3,000 older peoples’ homes each year. From 2009 to 2014 the 72 councils questioned put a charge on 15,174 homes.


Older people with assets of more than £23,250, must pay their own care bills. Many are forced to sell their homes to meet the costs, which are close to £600 a week for an average care home place.

Councils take out a legal charge on a property when an older person will not pay care bills, and the council has to cover the cost. Often the family has failed to sell the home. Some try to give their property to their children if they suspect they will need costly care. But they must still pay care bills for seven years after the gift is made. During this time, the council will put a charge on the property.

A charge is also taken out in the ‘deferred payment’ scheme, which allows the person to stay in their home. The charge ensures the council can seize and sell the property after the owner dies.

The number of properties targeted annually rose by more than 10 per cent over the period – from 2,816 in 2009/10 to 3,109 in the financial year which ended in March.

On average, there were more than eight charges on homes every day. However, if the councils which did not provide FOI answers have been taking homes at the same rate, numbers will be nearly 17 a day, well over 100 a week.

The thousands of homes taken without dispute, from families who agree to sell up and settle their bills before legal pressure from the town hall, are not included in the figures.

In cases where the local authority agrees that the family can delay paying care costs until after the relative has died and their home is sold, councils often treat continued use of the property as a form of loan – and will charge high interest rates when the home is sold. Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, said: ‘We know that every day, thousands of families face agonising decisions about care … where dwindling savings are just not enough to meet rocketing care costs.’

She added: ‘The Government needs to help people understand … how the system will work and what they will actually have to pay, and ensure a care system is in place that is fit for today’s older people and future generations.’

Seizure of homes happens because of the means test system that affects people who need to go into care homes or have help at home.

Councils carry out the means tests and insist those with property sell it to meet the costs of their care – unless there is a spouse, a disabled relative or a child still living there.

People who have no savings and own no property are given free care home places paid for by councils.

Many cases included in the figures involve people who have failed to pay their bills and now face legal action by local authority lawyers.

Others are a result of ‘deferred payment’ schemes, in which people live in their homes while the council provides care, but the council takes the property after their death.

Philip Davies, MP for Shipley, said the system is ‘grotesquely unfair’.