HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

DMBM655230 - Enforcement action: distraint: general considerations: furniture and furnishings

Where you distrain on furniture and furnishings not considered exempt you should note the following.

Furniture or furnishings containing upholstery cannot be sold unless they comply with the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988. These specify the type of filling to be used and that the fabric should pass the ‘cigarette and match’ test. The fire safety regulations apply to new and second hand goods.

If a manufacturer, wholesaler or retailer owns furniture and furnishings intended for sale for private use, you may assume that they meet the relevant safety regulations.

Furniture and furnishings in this context include:

  • suites, chairs
  • beds, headboards, mattresses (remember that beds and bedding are exempt from seizure unless taken from a retailer or manufacturer)
  • sofabeds, futons, other convertibles
  • nursery furniture
  • garden furniture which is suitable for use in the home
  • pillows, scatter cushions and seat pads
  • loose and stretch covers for furniture.

You may seize items of upholstered furniture or furnishings if at least one of the following conditions is satisfied:

  • the item bears a label stating that it complies with the relevant safety regulations
  • you know the item was purchased new on or after 1 March 1993 (in which case it is deemed to have met the safety requirements without the need for a label) or
  • the furniture was manufactured before 1950, even if re-upholstered since then (in which case it is exempt from the safety regulations).