Landlords are beset with regulations when renting out property. It is not always realised that some of these relate to the furniture that you provide to your tenant.
In particular the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 (as amended).
Its all about safety
The furniture regulations, like many of the regulations that apply to rented property, are there for safety reasons. This is because some of the materials used in older furniture are a fire risk and can even produce poisonous gases when burning.
So all furniture and furnishings must carry a manufacturers label at the point of sale, which must be non detachable. Make sure you keep all receipts so you can prove that the furniture is compliant – for example if the non detachable labels get ripped off.
There are some exceptions to the rules. Antique furniture or furniture manufactured before 1950, bed clothes and duvets, loose mattress covers, pillowcases, sleeping bags, curtains and carpets are all excluded. However everything else needs to be compliant.
The penalties for non compliance with the regulations are quite stringent. They are
- A maximum fine of £5,000 PER ITEM which does not comply
- Potential six month’s imprisonment
- Possible manslaughter charges in the event of death
Note also that if they suffer any damage as a result of the non compliant items, your tenants may also be entitled to sue you for civil damages, and your property insurance will probably be invalidated.
So it is worth making sure that you are compliant with the regulations.
Note however that these regulations fall under the criminal law so tenants cannot use them as a basis for a clvil claim.
Get help from Trading Standards
For more information about the regulations, the best place to go is your local Trading Standards office.
Although these are the people who would normally prosecute you, they would actually far rather help you get things right (its less paperwork for them) . They usually have a selection of useful leaflets and will be able to advise you if you have any questions.
You may also find this page from the Fire Safety Advice Centre helpful.
Rather than worry about whether this piece of second hand furniture is compliant or not however, you may want to consider using furniture packs.
These are designed for landlords and are available from specialist retailers. They will include all the things you will need to furnish your property and will save you a lot of time. These are often competitively priced and you can be sure that all the furniture will be compliant.
You can find details of companies providing them by doing a search on the internet for furniture packs for landlords. You may also want to read this helpful article by landlord Mark Alexander of Property 118.
It is worth making an effort to be compliant as Local Authorities are increasingly looking to enforce these and the other safety regulations. Tenants too are becoming more aware of their rights. So be careful.