Safety standards for furniture and furnishings
Updated: 05 May 2016
It is the landlord's responsibility as supplier or agent of holiday or let accommodation to ensure that all upholstered furniture complies with the Furniture & Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988.
These regulations set new levels of fire resistance for domestic upholstered furniture, furnishings and other products containing upholstery. Many domestic fires start with soft furnishings catching fire and many deaths are attributed to the highly poisonous fumes that are given off by the man-made foams and coverings.
The new regulations aim to improve the fire safety of materials used in the manufacturing of furniture by introducing two new standards of fire resistance. These standards include two tests:
- the match test and
- the cigarette test
From 1st March 1993
- All furniture and furnishings included in accommodation which is made available for let for the first time after this date, must meet all the fire resistance requirements.
- Furniture, whether new or second hand and, which is in addition to, or in replacement of, existing furniture in accommodation let prior to this date must comply with all the fire resistance requirements.
From 1st January 1997
- All upholstered furniture and furnishings included in rented accommodation must comply with all the fire resistance requirements.
Where lettings are continued to the same tenant, no further supply is considered to have taken place for the purpose of the regulations. Therefore, furniture supplied to a tenant in respect of an agreement which commenced before the 1st of January 1997 can continue to be supplied until the tenant leaves or a new agreement is put in place, provided the property was first let prior to March 1993.
The regulations apply to:
- Beds, headboards of beds and mattresses
- Sofa-beds, futons and other convertibles
- Nursery furniture
- Garden furniture which is suitable for use in the dwelling
- Scatter cushions and seat pads
- Loose and stretch covers for furniture
They do not apply to:
- Furniture made before 1950
- Bedclothes including duvets
- Loose covers for mattresses
- Pillow cases
- Sleeping bags
What to look for
Each item of furniture or furnishings will have a label attached to it stating compliance with the regulations. All new furniture must carry a display label at the point of sale. Furniture which has no permanent label or a permanent label which is not in one of these types should be assumed not to comply.
Look for statements that:
- Foams and fillings pass the test.
- Upholstery (covers and fillings) is cigarette resistant.
- Covers are match resistant.
Certain articles do not require all the above information to be given. For example, loose covers, pillows, cushions and seat pads will have a label with a caution, the name and postal code of the first UK supplier and a description of filling or covering materials.
Mattresses and bed bases should have a label showing that they meet BS 7177.
Remember that supplying furniture and furnishings which are prohibited by the regulations constitutes an offence under the Consumer Protection Act 1987
You should be aware of other items that come within the General Product (Safety) Regulations 1994, and which have implications for furnished accommodation. For example:
- Furniture incorporating glass, should comply with BS7449:1991 (covers the use of glass in all furniture including cabinets, shelving systems and wall hangings, such as free standing mirrors) or BS73 76: 1990 (which covers tables and trolleys).
- Lampshades which should state the maximum wattage of the bulb which can be used safely.
There are other, miscellaneous items within let accommodation that are covered by different legislation. If you require further information on this and any of the above you should contact the local district council.
Fire protection in shared houses and houses of multiple occupancy
A house occupied by a group of unrelated individuals is more likely to be involved in a fire accident at some time compared with a more traditional single family type of occupancy.
To give the occupants an increased chance of escape and survival of a fire it is essential that a fire protection scheme appropriate to the type of house is carried out, preferably before the occupants move in.
Fire protection scheme
This should have:
- an alarm system to detect and then warn residents of the fire.
- a safe escape route which is well lit.
- fire fighting equipment so that residents can tackle a small fire and stop it spreading if safe to do so.
For further information on HMO safety standards you should contact your HMO Unit.
Fire fighting equipment
There should be a fire extinguisher and a fire blanket in the kitchen so that residents can tackle a small fire and stop it spreading if safe to do so. Larger fires should be left alone for the fire brigade to deal with and the building evacuated as soon as possible.
A Carbon Dioxide (CO2) extinguisher should be placed adjacent to any mains electric supply cupboard.
The fire blanket should comply with BS: 6575. It should be in a quick release container and hung on the wall near the entrance to the kitchen so that residents can reach it without going near the flames.
It is strongly recommended that all new residents be given clear instructions on how to use the fire fighting equipment provided, and be given regular updates. You should advise your tenants that they should not interfere with the fire precautions provided, for example, by removing batteries from a smoke alarm.
All upholstered furniture (e.g. three piece suites, bed bases and mattresses) manufactured after 1950 must comply with Flammability Regulations.
In general all furniture and furnishings manufactured after 1st March 1990 should comply. Look for the permanently attached label which states:
- the covers are match resistant (except cushions and pillows)
- the upholstery is cigarette resistant
- the foams and fillings have passed the relevant ignitability test
On beds and mattresses look for the label stating compliance with BS7177:1989. If the furniture is not labelled then you have no easy way of telling whether or not it complies.