Property news: Legal responsibilities

When it comes to lettings, a rented property must be as safe as houses – with the landlord facing a host of legal responsibilities.

These can range from maintaining safe electrical appliances, gas safety and ensuring furniture and furnishings meet the required safety standards.

Craig Finch, group lettings controller of Harrison Murray’s lettings service said: “All landlords must abide by a number of legal requirements to ensure the safety and well being of their tenants in relation to fire regulations surrounding furniture and furnishings.

“In line with advice from ARLA (Association of Residential Letting Agents), Harrison Murray is able to guide landlords through their responsibilities.

“Furnishing a rented property is not as simple as just supplying the tenants with somewhere comfy to sit and sleep – there is high penalty for not complying with the Fire and Furnishings (Safety) Regulations 1988 (1993).”

Landlords need to be aware that:

All soft furnishings such as settees, sofas, beds, padded chairs, pillows, and cushions must comply with the Fire Resistance requirements contained within the regulations.

Items of furniture made before 1950 are termed as antiques and are excluded from the regulations. Usually a label is attached to the item of furniture to confirm it is acceptable.

Some materials used to fill or cover furniture, particularly older and second hand furniture, may be a fire risk and often produce poisonous gases when burning, such as cyanide or carbon monoxide.

Non compliance is a criminal offence and could result in; a fine of £5,000 per item not complying, six month’s imprisonment and possible manslaughter charges in the event of death.

Landlords have the choice to either let their property unfurnished or make sure all the furniture and furnishings meet the regulations. They must carry an appropriate permanent label at point of sale.

Your letting agent will be able to advise you on this, but Harrison Murray suggest landlords keep all purchase receipts and if possible, buy new from a reputable retailer.

Checklist - the regulations apply to:

Arm chairs, three-piece suites, sofas, sofa beds, futons and other convertible furniture.

Beds, bed bases and headboards, mattresses, divans and pillows.

Nursery furniture

Garden furniture which could be used indoors

Loose, stretch and fitted covers for furniture, scatter cushions, seat pads and pillows.

But not currently to:

Antique furniture or furniture manufactured before 1950

Bed clothes and duvets

Loose mattress covers

Pillowcases

Sleeping bags

Curtains

Carpets

For further general information on fire and furnishings regulations and other safety issues visit https://www.gov.uk/browse/housing or www.arla.co.uk/information/safety-regulations