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Guest Kate

Fire safety labels

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Guest Kate
 
Hello,

I was wondering if you could help with a predicament we're in please. 

We recently bought a house which was being rented out and included the furniture in the sale. We have since found out that several items of furniture (bed bases, mattress and a a couple of chairs) don't have fire safety labels visible although they don't look very old. I read the rules are different for bed bases and mattresses and can't quite tell if we need to replace them.

Do you know where we stand with this please? We want to continue renting the house out (it's a house we have bought for retirement but are renting in the meantime so we're not seasoned landlords) but now find we have been sold furniture which is not compliant and possibly should never have been in rental accommodation (unless the labels have all fallen off). If we had known, we would have asked the seller to dispose of it all before the sale, but we have paid for it in the house sale and will now have to pay for disposal and new furniture. Is there anything we can do? Is there any way of proving fire safety compliance retrospectively if the labels have simply fallen off? It doesn't help that the seller now lives in Australia!
 
many thanks

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As a landlord of a furnished flat you are subject to The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations and any upholstered furniture/furnishings require that each item should be have a permanent label, permanently fixed to it by glueing, stitched or stapled. The label is proof that the item meets the required standards and if they are missing I am of the opinion that there is little you can do other than dispose of the item or reupholstery them. Most of the labels will be permanent labels in accordance with FFFSR but the mattress label is likely to be a BS7177 low hazard label. The position of the labels can be difficult to find, so you need to check it with a fine tooth comb, I have a settee and it is stapled to the wooden frame inside.

I am sorry I can't be more positive but you can check the guides on the regulations in  The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations.

Edited by Tom Sutton

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Ps. Would you mind just clarifying the legal side of the bed bases and mattresses please - I've just seen "Bed bases and mattresses are not required to bear a permanent label but compliance will be indicated if the item has a label stating that it meets BS7177" on landlordzone - does this mean those items don't require a label to comply with the law but the BS7177 label is recommended? (If so, I'd still try to get in touch with the last owner to see if they were bought with fire safety in mind.)

 

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THe problem with bed bases and mattresses is they are cover by two pieces of legislation, FFFSR and The General Product Safety Regulations 2005. The BS7177 low hazard label  satisfies the GPSR which could be interpreted as meeting the law but you wouldn't be meeting the FFFSR. I would suggest you contact your local Trading Standards and get their advice.

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It's complicated! Essentially, the Furniture Regulations apply to covers and fillings of sofas but only the fillings of mattresses. In the many years I worked for the government on these regulations, I was never able to find out why mattress covers were excluded. Mattress covers by default fall under the General Product Safety Regulations 2005, as Tom says. This means the requirements for mattresses are not straightforward, i.e:

The Furniture Regs are UK law and prescriptive

The GPSR are EU law and advisory

Which means by law you must comply with the Furniture Regs but where the GPSR is concerned you can decide yourself what constitutes 'safe'. In practice, everyone agrees that BS 7177 should be met to demonstrate 'safe' for mattress covers. But you aren't breaking the law exactly if you don't use it. It would be up to Trading Standards to convince a court that you should have used it and therefore your product isn't safe (which to be fair a court would almost certainly do).

BS 7177 has a labelling requirement. Again, it's not against the law exactly not to put it on a product but it would certainly help Trading Standards' case if it's absent.

The permanent label required by the Furniture Regs, however, is a legal requirement: if it's missing, then in effect your mattress is illegal. Therefore I agree with Tom that it would be unwise to provide your tenants with a sofa that doesn't carry the permanent label. And in practice that pretty much goes for mattresses too.

Just to add to the complication . . . 

While BS 7177 is used to demonstrate the safety of mattress covers, it's a composite test, i.e. carried out over the cover and the filling. Quite a few 'organic' mattress makers only test to BS 7177, claiming that it is the test for both covers and fillings. But it isn't. Fillings need to comply with the Furniture Regs. But some organic materials - like 100% latex - would never pass the fillings test but they can pass the BS 7177 test. You can guess the rest . . . 

The Department for Business started to resolve this and many other anomalies in the regulations but for the past 4 years they've done bugger all about them. I suspect they're waiting for Brexit and hoping that they can simply ditch them then.

 

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