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Soft Options And Fitting Solutions

Sep 5, 2008
Even unfurnished rented accommodation is likely to need flooring. But whatever the level of furnishing, the choice is important. Landlords will want to choose durable items but also those that will add to the attractiveness of their properties. They must also be sure to comply with safety and other regulations.

Upholstered furniture made before 1988 may contain foam that is capable of engulfing a room within seconds with toxic fumes. Since then only much
safer materials may be used for both filling and covering furnishings. And since 1997, it has been a legal requirement that all upholstered furniture provided in furnished lettings must meet with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988.

The requirement applies to domestic items of furniture only, and includes items such as: beds, mattresses, headboards, sofa-beds, futons, pillows, nursery furniture, cushions, sofas, easy chairs, garden furniture which is used indoors, and seat pads and coverings (including those supplied with cane furniture). Items that do not fall under these regulations include: curtains, carpets, sleeping bags, bed-clothes (including duvets), loose covers for mattresses, and pillowcases. These may come under the General Product Safety Regulations 1994 which implemented the EU directive on general product safety and require no product intended for general consumers may be placed on the market unless it is safe (although the regulations do not apply to second hand products which are antiques).

Furniture brought new after 1988 should be labelled to indicate that it complies with the furniture and furnishings regulations. This will include a display label at the point of sale, and also a permanent label attached to each individual item of furniture.

Labelling is primarily the responsibility of the manufacturer, but also of the retailer. Since 1993 it has been illegal to sell second hand furniture that does not comply - with the exception of antique furniture (or any furniture) manufactured before 1950. If a landlord cannot provide proof that furniture complies, a tenant may request that the items are replaced. For their part, landlords have the right to refuse to allow tenants to use their own furniture if it does not meet the legal requirements.

The Department of Trade and Industry advises anyone letting out a property to contact their local Trading Standards department for advice. Trading Standards department have powers of entry into rented accommodation, and a landlord can face a maximum penalty of 5,000 pounds, and/or six months' imprisonment, if found guilty of failing to comply with the regulations. Additionally, property insurance may become invalid, leaving a landlord personally liable for potentially huge sums of money.

A good rule of thumb with regards to furnishings is to provide less rather than more. However, for a furnished property, the landlord must ensure that the furnishings are adequate for the purpose of living, from the day that the tenant moves in. Rooms on which a landlord should focus particular attention are the bathroom (including a shower if possible) and kitchen. Bedrooms should be kept simple and inoffensive. If furnished, it is best to select plain, neutral and simple, yet sturdy, items of furniture since these will appeal to the widest range of people.

Any landlord intending to let to the professional market should aim to fit out and furnish to high quality. Furnishings should also be chosen to suit the property. For example, a luxurious house might be considered incomplete without a tumble dryer and dishwasher. Although electrical items such as these will add to the rental value of a property, they also provide potential worries since they can break down unpredictably.

The general rule is that the more upmarket the furnishings and fittings, the greater the likelihood of attracting more discerning tenants. This will hopefully help ensure the property is treated better than otherwise might be the case. Better furnishings also help minimise periods between lettings.

Furnishing property with second hand furniture may seem like a money saving option, but the cheapest option is not always the best. Items can often be below legal requirements, they might not stand the test of time and they can also look shabby, putting off potential tenants. If a property is to be furnished with second hand furniture, landlords are advised not to leave anything of great sentimental value to themselves. Such items will not have the same emotional significance to the tenant, and so may not be treated as carefully. It is also not wise to leave anything of great financial value in the property, as damage and theft do occur.

But in any case an inventory listing all contents to be used by tenant should be compiled, noting the condition of each item of significance. Tenants should be required to sign the inventory and both tenant and landlord should hold a copy. Without such safeguards, it will be impossible for the landlord to prove any loss or damage to the property or the furnishings.

If anything supplied by a landlord breaks down it is his or her obligation to have it repaired. So it might seem that letting property unfurnished will involve fewer complications. The fewer items in the property that can go wrong, the fewer the potential problems.

But market demand has to be taken into account and many landlords find there is more call for furnished accommodation - and rent levels will be higher as a result. And even an unfurnished will normally require carpets, curtains and a cooker.

Landlords who prefer not to have to deal with the details of furnishing, or who want to offer the choice of furnished or unfurnished accommodation can use one of the specialist furnishing companies offering packages to landlords.

There are other advantages in using a specialist company, including being able to tap into its knowledge of the current market, and expertise in creating the most modern look available.

Some property style consultants provide an affordable alternative to interior designers. Using a contract furnishing service can relieve the client of both the time and financial pressure of having to research, shop, deliver and install all interior furnishings and fittings.

Presentation is key. In today's property market, making your property irresistible to potential renters is the key to a quick turnaround. The days of renting a property with shabby, old and unusable furnishings and fittings are over. Potential renters will simply go to the next property with its new, clean and fully functional interior and even be willing to pay a little more.

Contract furnishers analyse consumer trends and provide durable, comfortable and stylish solutions for both clients and consequently their end users. The service also takes into account all current health and safety regulations. Clients should think of the service as a one stop shop for their entire interior furnishing needs, providing a bespoke solution and adding value to their property.

Often, contract furnishers have complete furniture packages in stock and ready to deliver, therefore making the property ready for rental much sooner when compared to most high street retail lead times. The client should determine budgets and timeframes beforehand. If a contract furnisher is willing and able to work within that predetermined budget and timeframe, there will be no hidden extras and therefore no surprises. The client can therefore relax, safe in the knowledge that their property will be completed and ready for occupancy at that agreed price and on that agreed day. Reputable contract furnishers form solid business relationships with reputable suppliers and deal in bulk purchases, thus saving money and passing on those savings to their clients.
About the Author
This and much more useful information can be found at Residential Landlord a leading online resource for all UK buy to let investors.

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