The effective legislation includes:
- The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 (amended in 1989 and 1993).
- The Consumer Protection Act 1987.
Some professionals question whether an individual landlord letting a property on a one-off short-term basis, and not as part of a business, needs to comply with these Regulations. Interpretation of the law is a matter for the courts: however, landlords must consider the repercussions of failing to comply. The penalties includes a fine of £5,000 per item not complying and/or six months’ imprisonment. The consequences resulting from injury or death of a tenant are much more serious. Remember that, unless you seek professional legal advice before letting the property, your liability status may be best precarious. Novice landlords should therefore err on the side of caution by verifying that furnishings comply. The Regulations were brought into force following numerous deaths caused by fire and smoke inhalation from foam filled and other furnishings. Manufacturers are legally bound to manufacture safe products and all furnishings purchased new should comply with the minimum legal requirements. This fact does not, however, offer a landlord any degree of certainty in complying.
A landlord must supply only approved goods and have evidence that the appropriate labels are affixed to them. Landlords must examine the actual Regulations for reference purposes.
Items that must comply include:
- three-piece suites, armchairs and sofas.
- Futons, bed sofa’s and other ‘convertible’ furnishings.
- Beds and bed bases as well as mattresses, headboards and pillows.
- Cushions and fitted or loose seating, pillows and pads.
- Stretch, loose and fitted covers for furniture.
- Dining and kitchen chairs with upholstered seats, backs or arms.
- Nursery furniture including baby chairs, cots and changing mats.
- Garden furniture containing upholstery that might be used indoors.
Specifically excluded are:
- Loose mattress covers
- Pillow cases
- Sleeping bags
- Antique furniture or furniture manufactured prior to 1950 (you may be required provide The Trading Standards Office with evidence of the manufactured date or a statement of age given by an appropriately experienced assessor or insurance certificate).
- Bed clothes (including duvets).
Upholstered furnishing must have fire resistant filling and pass the ‘match’ and ‘cigarette’ test to be compliant wit the Regulations. They must have also affixed to them the appropriate manufacturer’s label. Beds and mattresses do not need to have permanent labels attached but must meet British Standards BS7177 (a label attached at purchase should confirm this).
Labels can get damaged or become loose or worn over time and, as these are your main evidence proving compliance, you should record details at the point of purchase. Register:
- The date of purchase
- where purchased
- the manufacturer
- model and reference numbers
- a verbatim transcript of what is displayed on any label(s)
Pin to this record your purchase receipt and a photograph of the item of furnishing with the permanent label(s) clearly visible. Keep these in a safe place for future reference. The Department of Trade and Industry has produced a useful free Guide to The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (safety) Regulations.