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Trading standards information

© 2011 itsa Ltd on behalf of the Trading Standards Institute.

Safety of goods in rented accommodation - landlords and letting agencies

Broadly speaking, the law requires that goods are safe when they are supplied. This includes any goods supplied as part of a tenancy agreement, or in let accommodation. Gas installations, appliances and flues must be checked by a Gas Safe-registered person every 12 months, and a record of the check must be made available to tenants. Specific checks are not normally required by law for other products - such as furniture, electrical items and glazing - but you still have to ensure they are safe under the law, and the best way is to get them tested.

In the guide
To whom does the law apply?
What does the law require?
Do I have to carry out specific safety checks?
Furniture
Electrical equipment
Gas appliances
Glazing
Other appliances and equipment
Penalties

To whom does the law apply?
Anyone who lets residential furnished accommodation (such as houses, flats, bedsits, holiday homes, caravans and boats) as a business activity. This includes letting agents, estate agents and private landlords. Often letting agents, as well as landlords, are liable, if goods supplied with the tenancy are not of the standard required by law.

What does the law require?
In general terms, the law requires that goods are safe when they are supplied. This includes any goods supplied as part of a tenancy agreement or in let accommodation. Special safety rules apply to certain types of goods, and some of the main ones are detailed below.

The supply of goods can occur when the tenancy contract is made and/or when the tenant moves into the property and/or when goods are newly supplied or installed for an existing tenant.

Do I have to carry out specific safety checks?
You are responsible for the safety of the goods you supply, and it is therefore advisable that you carry out appropriate checks on all the goods in the property. In some cases, you may wish to employ an expert to carry out checks for you (for example, the aforementioned Gas Safe-registered person, or an electrician to assess the safety of electrical installations and appliances). In addition to deciding which checks to do, you will also need to decide how frequently to repeat them - this may be different for a holiday property than for a long-term residential let.

Where you do carry out checks, or where you have them done for you, you should keep records. These records, as a minimum, should identify what goods were checked, what checks were done (and the results), who did them and when they were done.

Furniture
Upholstered furniture included in lettings must comply with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988. These impose the same stringent standards to both new and second-hand furniture in the shops.

The Regulations apply to the following:

  • all types of upholstered seating - this includes chairs, settees, padded stools, pouffes, sofa beds, and padded headboards
  • children's furniture, cots, carrycots, playpens, prams, pushchairs, high chairs
  • garden furniture suitable for indoor use
  • furniture in caravans
  • mattresses and padded bed bases
  • scatter cushions, pillows

The safety provisions require that:

  • the upholstery must pass a specified cigarette test for flammability (not required for mattresses, bed bases, pillows and cushions)
  • the filling must pass a specified ignitability test. There are some exemptions (such as filling materials for cushions and pillows) where the cover passes certain ignitability tests
  • furniture with permanent covers (excluding mattresses, bed bases and insulated bags designed for carrying babies under six months) must pass specified match tests. In the case of certain natural fibre covers, if there is an interliner between the furniture and the cover, and the interliner passes specified ignition resistance tests, the cover itself need not pass the match test

Furniture made before 1 January 1950 that has not been modified is excluded from the controls. Bedding, carpets and curtains are also excluded.

How to tell whether furniture complies - labelling
You should check to see that a permanent label is present as this is the best way to show compliance. Most furniture should have a label headed 'CARELESSNESS CAUSES FIRE' that provides at least the following information:

  • an indication as to whether the article of furniture includes an interliner (as described above)
  • a summary of the measures that have been taken to ensure compliance with the Regulations

Permanent labels are usually sewn, stapled or glued to the furniture and they can usually be found either under the main seat cushion or on the base of the furniture.

Mattresses and bed bases are not required to bear this type of label. However, compliance with the ignitability tests may be shown by a label stating compliance with BS 7177. This label has a blue border with white lettering and black cigarette and flame symbols.

Items not bearing any labelling may not conform to the Regulations, and you are advised not to include them in any letting until you have obtained evidence that they comply (for example from the manufacturer or original supplier).

Electrical equipment
The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 require that all mains electrical equipment (both new and used) supplied with the accommodation must be safe. If it complies with an acceptable standard, such as a British/European Standard, it will normally meet safety requirements.

These safety requirements cover:

  • labelling, construction, design, and manufacture
  • insulation and earthing
  • protection from electric shock
  • adequate guards for radiant heaters or moving parts
  • the need to provide instructions for safe use

Generally:

  • access to live, hot or moving parts must not be possible without the use of a tool
  • cable should be of the double-insulated type, with no basic insulation exposed
  • wiring should not be damaged in any way
  • cord grips on appliances must be effective
  • all guards should be in place and effective

Wiring colour codes
The wires of a three-core mains lead are coloured as follows:

  • earth - green and yellow
  • neutral - blue
  • live - brown

If you need to change a plug, lead or other connection, have it checked by an electrician. Incorrect wiring may cause electrocution or fire.

Plugs and sockets
The Plugs and Sockets etc (Safety) Regulations 1994 require all electrical appliances to be correctly fitted with an approved plug with sleeved pins. All plugs should carry the name and reference number of the approved body, normally BSI (British Standards Institution) or ASTA (ASTA Diamond Mark, run by Intertek). The plug does not have to be moulded on, but it must have the correct fuse for the appliance.

All sockets (for example, on mains extension leads) adaptors and similar devices must meet British or European Standards.

Electric fireguards
The distance between the bars and the strength of the guard are laid down in British Standards.

The fireguard is satisfactory if any vertical bars are 5mm or less apart. Otherwise, the guard must not have an opening with either:

  • a major dimension exceeding 125mm, a minor dimension exceeding 12mm and a diagonal dimension exceeding 126mm - or
  • a major dimension exceeding 50mm, a minor dimension exceeding 20mm and a diagonal dimension exceeding 53mm

Electric blankets
We advise you not to supply used electric blankets as their history, usage and condition may be unknown.

How to tell whether electrical equipment complies
You must take all reasonable precautions to ensure that electrical equipment is safe and correctly labelled. It is strongly advisable to have the equipment checked by a qualified electrician before the start of each let. It would be good practice to have the equipment checked at regular intervals thereafter. You should obtain and retain test reports detailing the equipment, the tests carried out, and the results.

You should make a copy of the instructions for all electrical appliances available to the tenant.

Gas appliances
The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 contain requirements relating to the installation and use of gas appliances. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) enforces these. Further information can be obtained by contacting the HSE Gas Safety Advice Line on 0800 300363.

In summary
Landlords must ensure that gas appliances, including LPG cabinet heaters, are checked for safety, including, where relevant, checks on the effectiveness of the flue, the ventilation, gas operating pressure and gas tightness. These checks should be carried out at least every 12 months and records kept of the test dates, defects, and remedial action taken. They must also make this information available to tenants and prospective tenants, and keep records for two years.

You should be aware that only businesses registered with the Gas Safe Register are permitted to carry out installation and maintenance of gas appliances. You should ask to see their current registration certificate, and you can find out more about Gas Safe and check whether the installer is a member on the Gas Safe Register website.

Mobile cabinet gas heaters should only be used in rooms where there is sufficient ventilation.

All gas appliances should be provided with adequate instructions for their safe use. It is illegal to install any fixed fire, space heater or water heater of more than 14kW input into a room intended to be used as sleeping accommodation, unless it is 'room sealed'. ('Room sealed' means that the combustion chamber to the boiler is sealed from the room. It gets its air from outside and also vents to the outside of the room.) If it is below 14kW, it must either be 'room sealed' or have an oxygen depletion cut out.

The HSE enforces the above but trading standards services enforce the following:

The Gas Appliances (Safety) Regulations 1995 require that all new gas appliances must be safe and come with instructions when sold.

The General Product Safety Regulations 2005 apply to the safety of used gas cookers. One way to ensure they are safe is to check they comply with BS EN 30. They must:

  • have legible and durable markings on the controls and be marked with the manufacturer's or importer's name
  • have adequate pan supports
  • have tap handles that are easy to operate, but not liable to be turned on accidentally
  • ignite promptly
  • have oven doors which seal in hot gases
  • have instructions for safe use

They must not have:

  • sharp edges
  • a casing that gets hot enough to cause injury

Any hob cover must shut off the gas supply, or the cover must have a warning label stating that it does not.

Gas and oil heater fireguards
The General Product Safety Regulations 2005 require all fireguards on gas fires and oil heaters to be safe. One method of ensuring this is by compliance to British Standards or the European equivalent.

Oil heaters and used gas fires, which do not satisfy specific design criteria involving the hearth and installation instructions, must be fitted with a guard which either:

  • does not permit a 35mm diameter probe to touch the heated radiants or the flame - or
  • has no gap larger than 150mm x 35mm, and no gap with a diameter larger than 154mm

...unless it is not possible to pass a 12mm diameter probe through the gap, or the gap is between vertical rods no greater than 5mm apart. The guard must pass certain strength tests.

Gas catalytic heaters
The REACH Enforcement Regulations 2008 prohibit the supply of these heaters that contain unbonded asbestos.

Paraffin heaters
The Oil Heaters (Safety) Regulations 1977 apply to paraffin heaters. Controls cover stability, flame extinction and labelling.

Glazing
The Construction Products Regulations 2013 cover glazing. If you are buying replacement glazing, safety glass must be used in critical locations, as follows:

  • any glazing that is less than 800mm from the floor
  • any glazing in a door that is less than 1500mm from the floor, or within 300mm either side of a door

Small glass panes (with a smaller dimension up to 250mm, and a total area up to 0.5m2) do not need to be made of safety glass if they are thick enough (6mm in most cases). However, if you are buying a replacement door, for example, with small panes, it is better to choose safety glass if it is available.

Other appliances and equipment
All equipment and items not covered by specific regulations must comply with the General Product Safety Regulations 2005. You must ensure that all items you supply with the accommodation are safe. This will include supplying warnings and instructions with the items, where they are necessary, for the safe use of the items.

For example:

  • mechanical lawn mowers, strimmers, etc must be provided with the necessary guards in place
  • chairs and stepladders must be strong enough to support a person's weight
  • glass in furniture should satisfy British Standards where applicable
  • ironing boards, clothes dryers, etc should not have sharp edges that could cause injury in normal use

You are advised to check all items at regular intervals to ensure that they are safe.

Penalties
The maximum penalties vary, depending on the specific piece of legislation, but fines of up to £20,000 and a prison sentence of up to six months can be imposed. If a product causes injury or damage, substantial compensation may be payable, whether or not criminal proceedings are brought.

Please note
This leaflet is not an authoritative interpretation of the law and is intended only for guidance. Any legislation referred to, while still current, may have been amended from the form in which it was originally enacted. Please contact us for further information.

Relevant legislation
Oil Heaters (Safety) Regulations 1977
Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988
Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994
Plugs and Sockets etc (Safety) Regulations 1994
Gas Appliances (Safety) Regulations 1995
Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998
General Product Safety Regulations 2005
REACH Enforcement Regulations 2008
Construction Products Regulations 2013

Last reviewed/updated: December 2013

© 2014 itsa Ltd on behalf of the Trading Standards Institute.