Seeking an answer to a question of a worried customer, Tarbija24 was hoping Lepmets & Nõges could help clarify who will compensate for the damage caused by the landlord's home appliance that broke down on the rental property.
"Recently, a kitchen caught fire in a block of flats in Harjumaa due to an electrical short in the dishwasher, and the entire building suffered smoke and water damage due to the fire. I became interested in who should reimburse the costs of housing repairs, if they have arisen, for example, due to a broken home appliance?" asked a Tarbija24 reader.
If a broken home appliance has caused damage to the home, in order to claim compensation for the damage, you must first find out what or who caused the damage in question. There is no single solution, as different factual circumstances are accompanied by very different legal relationships. The installer of the home appliance, who installed the appliance incorrectly, as well as the dealer who did not inform the buyer well enough, as well as the tenant or landlord, can be held responsible. It is also possible that the manufacturer has made a product with a defect, which, even with the intended use and correct installation, breaks down or catches fire and causes great damage to the surrounding environment. In such a case, the manufacturer who put the defective product into circulation may be named as the final person responsible for the damage. If a defective product put into circulation causes destruction or damage to housing, the manufacturer is liable for the resulting damage only if all of the following conditions are met:
- the defective product has caused damage and there is a causal connection between the product defect and the damage caused;
- the defective product is of a type that is normally used for consumption outside of economic or professional activities;
- this product was mainly used outside of economic and professional activities;
- the damage is greater than 500 euros;
- there are no circumstances excluding the manufacturer's responsibility.
In other words, if, for example, a defective dishwasher catches fire at the consumer's home due to a defect and as a result the interior of the apartment is damaged, the affected consumer can demand compensation for the damage caused to the interior of the apartment from the manufacturer of the dishwasher based on the manufacturer's liability provisions. This is the case if the damage is greater than 500 euros and there are no circumstances excluding liability. On the other hand, the manufacturer is released from liability if he can prove that:
- the manufacturer has not placed the product on the market;
- there are circumstances based on which it can be assumed that the product did not have a defect that caused the damage at the time the product was placed on the market by the manufacturer;
- he did not manufacture the product for sale or otherwise market it, nor did he manufacture or market it in his economic or professional activity;
- the defect is due to the fact that the product met the mandatory requirements in force at the time of market release;
- the defect could not have been discovered at the time the product was placed on the market according to the level of scientific and technical knowledge at the time
It is also important to know that, regardless of the existence of the above-mentioned prerequisites for compensation, such claims against the manufacturer expire ten years from the day after the product that caused the damage was put on the market. In other words, if the dishwasher that caused the damage was manufactured earlier than 2003, the damage may still not be eligible for compensation.
The article was published in the "Reader asks" section of Tarbija24 on October 3, 2013.