Warning over battery safety from home insurance experts

Eight in ten people are charging, storing, or repairing their devices in a way that greatly increases the risk of fire, according to a survey by NFU Mutual. With lithium-ion batteries used in almost every household in the UK, and insurers reporting an increase in fire claims associated with them, it is advisable for agents to inform their landlords and tenants on how to reduce their risk.

Phone white shirt.jpg

Why battery fires are a concern

The lithium-ion batteries used in mobile phones, laptops, e-cigarettes, cordless power tools, and electric scooters or bikes (amongst many other things) can enter a self-heating cycle, also called thermal runaway, which generally results in fires which can develop within seconds, often without warning, and can be difficult to put out.

The NFU survey found that 80% of people had done at least one thing to leave their devices at higher risk of fire.

What could cause a fire?

The most likely causes are physical or chemical damage, heat, over-charging / over-discharging, or defective manufacturing. Counterfeit or second-hand batteries and chargers can also increase the risk of faults and fires.

The highest risk of a fire occurring is when a battery is being charged, transported, has been damaged previously, or has been subjected to overcharging or continual charging and discharging.

General tips for reducing risk

It’s important to follow the original manufacturer's instructions for charging or resolving faults, and only use the original battery and charger, or an approved replacement with a CE or UKCA safety marking. Unofficial third-party alternatives could cause dangerous overheating of the battery.

Avoid changing devices under beds or on sofas and don’t leave them in direct sunlight. It’s also advised not to leave batteries plugged in overnight or in an empty house as they should be unplugged as soon as possible once it’s fully charged.

Electric bikes and scooters

Fires linked to lithium-ion batteries in scooters and bikes, have quadrupled since 2020, killing eight people and injuring another 190.

Charging of e-bikes and e-scooters inside residential buildings should be avoided. Where this can’t be avoided, they must not be charged in communal areas or on fire exit routes. Where batteries can be removed from e-bikes then this should be encouraged.

Smoke alarm.jpg
Safety responsibilities for landlords

To help you get to grips with what’s expected, we have outlined the main safety concerns you need to be aware of and the legal obligations you must adhere to.