Recently, a major household appliance brand has called on its customers to stop using its tumble-dryers – 65,000 of them, to be precise.  One particular model has been blamed for over 750 fires[1] across the UK, with homeowners sustaining damage to their property and possessions and, in the worst cases, loss of their home.

Every week, around 60 fires in the UK are caused by electrical appliances – from toasters to tumble dryers[2].   No appliance purchaser expects a household appliance to cause damage, if it is properly used, but these things do happen.  And it is not just electrical fires that cause damage.   Washing machines and dishwashers are big culprits when it comes to flooding and, if you live in a flat with neighbours below, things can get complicated.

Household Appliance

Defective Appliances & Property Damage

If something bad does happen, think before you act.  Is your product faulty?  If so, the manufacturer may be liable for the damage, so you can claim from them rather than your insurer.  This will keep your claims history intact, rather than potentially driving up your premium in the future.

The Consumer Protection Act 1987[3] states that there is strict liability for manufacturers in the event of death, personal injury, loss, or damage caused by defective products.   This means that, if a product is faulty, the manufacturer is automatically liable to pay for the damage or loss – even if you didn’t buy the product yourself.

There are various rules to be aware of, if you claim compensation from a manufacturer.  For example, your claim must be worth more that £275[4] and your first port of call should be where you, or the original purchaser, bought the item, rather than the manufacturer direct.   You can’t claim for the value of the item itself, only the damage it caused.  And you can’t claim on both your insurance and also receive compensation from the manufacturer.

Preventing Property Damage Caused by a Household Appliance

Whilst we rightfully have high expectations of the household devices that we buy, too many people don’t look after their appliances correctly.   If basic maintenance steps and advice is not followed, a property insurance claim could be declined.  Here are a few tips that could help you avoid property damage and financial loss.

Toasters

  • Check daily to make sure there isn’t a build-up of crumbs in the tray underneath. These can catch fire – or at least leave a smell of burning bread hanging around.
  • Don’t put slices of bread that are too thick into the toaster, as it could overheat.
  • Make sure you have set the timer correctly.  If the toaster stays hot for too long, more than just the bread could catch fire.
  • If something gets stuck inside, turn the toaster off at the plug and wait for it to cool down before dealing with the issue.
  • Don’t throw water on burning toast in the toaster. Water and electricity are a dangerous combination!

Dishwashers

  • Use them regularly. This stops gunk settling to the bottom, where it could block a drain and result in a flood.
  • Empty the machine before doing some basic maintenance steps.  Clean the spinning arms, making sure none of the little holes are blocked.  Clean inside the machine, the flatware basket, under the door on the inside, around the gasket and inside the detergent dispenser, which is prone to getting bunged up.
  • Unclog and clean the drain by hand, removing larger bits of debris and making sure you don’t drop any screws that you have had to undo down the drain.  It’s worth cleaning your dishwasher regularly.
  • Use something acidic to remove deposits. This won’t prevent a fault but will help you have clean dishes. You can run a short cycle with a variety of acidic liquids that you might have about the house. Vinegar, lemon juice or even cola will do the trick.

Washing Machines

  • Check the in and out hoses regularly.   If they are perished or damaged, you could find yourself facing a flood, if you don’t replace them.
  • Clean the filter regularly.
  • Keep the machine in a good position (level and not too close to a wall).
  • Clean inside the drum and also inside the detergent dispenser.
  • Consider standing the machine in a drip tray. This reduces the damage, if there is a minor leak.

Fridges and freezers

  • Check the door seals regularly and replace them if they are damaged.
  • Keep the compressor coils clean – they are at the back at the bottom of the fridge (be sure to turn the fridge off from the electricity supply before you do this).
  • Set the right temperature: 2.8C – 4.4C for fridges and -18C for freezers.
  • Keep enough food inside.  Fridges need ‘thermal mass’ to maintain low temperatures.
  • Be prepared for the eventuality of a power cut and don’t open the door of your freezer if the electricity goes off.
  • Keep the freezer drain clear, otherwise there will be a build-up of ice, which reduces efficiency and can lead to failure of the freezer.

Tumble Dryers

We have previously mentioned the risk of tumble-dryer fires.  According to Lancashire Fire & Rescue[5], this is often due to the motor getting hot and setting fire to fluff or lint that builds up in the dryer over time.

They advise that you clean the dryer filters after every use, vacuum clean the heater areas and vent pipe every six months, follow the manufacturers’ instructions for use and maintenance and don’t overload the appliance.  They also advise that you avoid leaving the dryer in use when you aren’t around.

As Aspray supports The Fire Fighters Charity, please do what you can to help minimise the risk of an appliance fire.  Our firefighters need all the assistance of this kind that they can get, to help keep everyone safe and fire statistics as low as possible.

In aid of The Fire Fighters Charity

Making an Insurance Claim After an Appliance Failure

The best way to avoid any issues is to follow the specific advice given by the manufacturer or supplier for the appliances you own, to keep them safe and efficient.  Guidance should be provided in the instruction booklet.  However, things do go wrong and lack of maintenance can be blamed for resulting property loss, making an insurance claim very difficult.

At Aspray, we regularly see clients whose insurance claim has been turned down by the insurer and their representative in a claim – the loss adjuster.  Our loss assessors could help argue your case, especially if there is a grey area that the insurer is seeking to use as a reason not to pay the claim.  Seeking to gain you your insurance policy entitlement is what we do.

One call to Aspray on 0800 077 6705 can help bring someone into the negotiations who is on your side, lending the support you need to put your point across.  Our service is of no charge to the policyholder, provided we use our vetted contractors to carry out the property reinstatement works.  We will project manage all of the repairs, as well as handling negotiations with the insurer, aiming to leave you with more peace of mind.

For more information on what we do, click here.


[1] https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/uk/consumer-advice/consumer-rights/a27938889/whirlpool-recall-tumble-dryers/

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/feb/15/faulty-appliances-cause-60-uk-house-fires-a-week-which-says

[3] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1987/43/contents

[4] https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/somethings-gone-wrong-with-a-purchase/claim-compensation-if-an-item-or-product-causes-damage/

[5] https://www.lancsfirerescue.org.uk/tumble-dryer-safety-top-tips/

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