Heather Moore, who is now 82, was a resident at Healthcare Homes’s Oaklands site, in Reydon, near Southwold in Suffolk.
Mrs Moore believes that she was “bullied” into selling her property owing to an incident in June 2015, when Healthcare Homes threatened to call the police after she allegedly “abused” two middle-aged male workmen.
In June last year Mrs Moore, who was a civil servant for 40 years, found fault with two contracted workmen who arrived two hours late at her bungalow to paint the windows.
They complained to the house manager, who in turn referred the matter to Deborah Helen Christian, who is one of seven directors of Healthcare Homes.
The Healthcare Homes Group Limited is a commercial retirement accommodation company based in Colchester in Essex. It runs 35 homes across the South East, some such as Oaklands include leasehold independent living units.
It boasts the “highest standards of care, where dignity is respected”.
Mrs Moore thought no more about the incident with the two men, but three days later she was horrified to receive a letter from Mrs Christian.
It threatened Mrs Moore with the police as she had caused “distress and upset” and had been “verbally aggressive”. (See the full letter below)
“Whatever your concern, it is not acceptable that you should behave in this manner and as landlords we are not prepared to tolerate it.”
“You must not directly approach on site contractors, nor comment on their work, nor issue them with instruction.
“The intent of this letter is to categorically inform you that behaviour which is abusive or threatening towards any individual will not be tolerated.
“A repeat of such behaviour in future may result in the police being called.”
In subsequent correspondence of July 10 2015, Ms Christian offer a qualified apology for the tone of her original letter:
“I cannot retract the statement that people were upset and distressed by your behaviour, because they were. I can however again offer my apologies for the tone of my letter.”
A meeting was proposed to resolve the matter, but Mrs Moore questioned why the two tradesmen, who appear to be regularly employed at this site and who she claims were appalled that the matter had escalated to this degree, were not invited to attend.
Mrs Moore was shaken by the incident and, more than a year later, still feels extremely upset about it.
“I feel as though I was bullied into having to sell up and leave my bungalow at Oaklands,” she says.
“It is utterly absurd that I was threatened with the police and it should never have happened.”
At the beginning of this year, Mrs Moore sold her bungalow, for which she paid £80,000 in 2012. She also spend another £30,000 adding a conservatory.
She has now bought a flat at Ditchingham, in Norfolk, costing £50,000 more than her bungalow.
When she sold, she had to pay a £1,150 exit fee to Healthcare Homes for no service, but as a condition of the lease. She says that should be restored to her, owing to the circumstances of the sale.
She is not disputing her £287.50 contribution to the contingency fund.
Mrs Moore states that she had every intention of remaining at Oaklands in her bungalow for her retirement, and it is solely this incident that compelled her to sell.
By coincidence, she had a doctor’s appointment the day after the incident last year, and her distress and high blood pressure were noted by her GP.
She claims the doctor told her that she needed to resolve the issue with Healthcare Homes, as she might be disqualified for subsequent care home accommodation if it were known that she were deemed to be “trouble”. This was an additional anxiety for her, it is claimed.
A series of letters were then exchanged, in which Mrs Moore clearly and calmly explained her version of the event.
“Might I ask if it is the policy of Healthcare Homes to write bullying and threatening letters to elderly residents without first finding out what they have to say in answer to a complaint, and have the chance to agree or disagree,” she wrote.
“Your arbitrary decision takes no account of fairness.
“I would like to know in detail what my verbal abuse consisted of … It seems very odd that if what was said was so dramatic, that nothing was said to me at the time.”
Two and a half months after the incident, on September 16, Mike Osborne, the managing director of Healthcare Homes, wrote to Mrs Moore (in full below).
“I have from my investigation into this matter concluded that the initial contact with you on this matter could have been handled more sensitively.
“However, the subsequent correspondence and offers of resolution were made in a conciliatory and understanding manner.
“I can see no evidence that in any correspondence was there any attempt to discredit you, make you feel uncomfortable or to not attempt to respond to your concerns and wishes in relation to the matter in as far as it was possible to do so.
“I am able to confirm, that given the evidence available, your name has, as you describe, been cleared. Your wishes in respect of your records have been adhered to.
“Mrs Christian again offers her apologies for the upset and distress caused. I am satisfied that she understands that her initial approach to you could have been handled more sensitively and has taken learning from this.”
Only in November were Mrs Moore’s windows painted, for which she says she was charged £500 “for two hours work” and not to a “good standard”. She thought £150 would have been a more appropriate charge.
Healthcare Homes says that Mrs Moore’s decision to sell up was “entirely her affair”.
The exit fees were 1% of the sale value of the property, £1,150, and 0.25% paid to the contingency fund, £287.50.
The company said there was “no reason to waive these”.
Healthcare Homes managing director responds to the complaint: