This article looks at the health and safety legislation relating to goods that landlords might provide in the properties they let to their tenants, and whether it is wise to use goods left behind by outgoing tenants.
The Consumer Protection Act 1987 requires that when supplied in the course of a business (such as letting property), goods such as furniture, electrical appliances and other items of everyday consumer equipment are reasonably safe. Almost all goods found in the home are covered by the Act, whether new or secondhand.
The General Product (Safety) Regulations 1994 require that all goods must satisfy general safety provisions. Additionally, some high risk items, including upholstered furniture, electrical equipment and gas cooking appliances, are subject to control by other specific safety regulations.
The legislation still applies if the landlord ‘gifts’ the goods to the tenant, or if the goods have been left behind by previous tenants.
Landlords should not presume that goods left behind by outgoing tenants automatically become their property. Goods left behind by an outgoing tenant do not become the property of the landlord unless they have either been bought for value or given. Some tenancy agreements will state that goods left behind are deemed gifted.
Such a clause is helpful when second-hand furniture is left in a property that has been abandoned, as the clause can be used to justify disposing of it. Strictly speaking however, abandoned goods remain the property of the former tenant.
If “abandoned” goods are still at a property when a new tenancy is created they will become the responsibility of the landlord. This means, for example, that a sofa left behind or gifted to the landlord will be subject to the Furniture and Fittings (Fire) Safety Regulations 1988. Similarly, a gas cooker will be subject to both the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 and the Gas Cooking Appliances (Safety) Regulations 1989.
In light of this, and given that landlords cannot know the history or age of goods left behind, such goods should be disposed of.