Rip-off fees that charge vulnerable pensioners hundreds of pounds for moving a carer into their retirement home should be axed, the Law Commission has said.
The body which recommends law changes to the Government said that in some cases pensioners were being charged thousands of pounds a year because landlords charge repeated fees when the occupants of a property change.
It said fees charged when a resident is forced to move in a family member or carer because they are no longer able to cope alone should be banned.
"Event fees" are also charged when the older person moves into a care home and sublets the property to someone else, or when the property is sold.
They are charged in some form by developers on most of the 160,000 retirement homes in the UK.
The Commission said that in many cases pensioners are unaware of the fees when they sign contracts to buy the leasehold flats and are shocked to be faced with a bill for thousands of pounds.
The fees are normally around one or two per cent of the property's value. On a flat worth £300,000 this could mean charges of up to £6,000.
If a flat is sublet, or different people move in and out, fees can be charged several times over.
But experts criticised the report for failing to recommend a total ban on controversial "exit fees" which are charged when a property is sold and lead to developers siphoning off a proportion of the sale price.
A few unscrupulous landlords are getting away with very high hidden fees
Sebastian O'Kelly, of the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, which campaigns against unfair leasehold, said the recommendations were "a great disappointment".
He said he was concerned that the failure to recommend a ban on exit fees might lead some developers who had already scrapped them, such as housebuilder McCarthy & Stone, moving to re-introduce them.
Just two per cent of Britain's housing stock is retirement homes, which is much lower than the proportion in other developed countries. In Australia and New Zealand the proportion is 13 per cent.
"I don't think this report is going to contribute in any way to more confidence in this market and the British are going to continue to stay away from it," he said.
But Adam Hillier, of charity Elderly Accommodation Counsel, said the problem was more to do with providers hiding the fees from buyers.
He said: "It's about transparency - the housing providers weren't making it clear to the buyers, so they only found out at the last minute when they'd already made the decision to move."
In a mystery shopping exercise last year an undercover representative from the Commission was wrongly told by several developers that there were no hidden charges on the properties.
The Law Commission said that some fees were a "practical way of making retirement flats affordable" but this lack of transparency was a problem and certain types of fees, including ones charged when a carer or family member moved in, should be banned.
Law Commissioner Stephen Lewis said: "In the worst cases, a few unscrupulous landlords are getting away with very high hidden fees buried deep in the small print of a long and complicated lease.
“We’d urge the government to crack down on rogue landlords by regulating the sector and making sure that before consumers sign on the dotted line, they have already been told exactly what’s being provided for their money.”
A Government spokesman said: “It’s vital that the fees older people pay for retirement properties are fair, reasonable and easily understandable.
“We welcome the Law Commission’s wide-ranging review and we will consider the report’s recommendations closely.