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Landlords and Legionella – Complying with the law

In April 2014 the Health and Safety Executive guidelines for prevention of legionella were brought into law, requiring every landlord to undertake regular risk assessments for each of their tenanted properties, whether managed themselves or by an agent. Failure to comply is now a criminal offence with the potential for fines or even a prison sentence.

What is Legionella?

Legionella or legionnaires disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia caused by inflammation of minute droplets of contaminated water containing legionella bacteria. All man made hot and cold water systems at some point are likely to provide a favourable environment where legionella can grow.

The Law.

If you are a landlord and rent out a property or even a room then you have a legal responsibility to ensure the health and safety of your tenant. This means keeping the property safe and free from health hazards including water borne sources. The HSE L8 Approved code of practice was revised in November 2013 in relation to the control of legionella bacteria.

What you must do to comply.

A simple assessment must be carried out by a competent person who is experienced in identifying the risks of legionella contamination. It may show that there are no real risks and that no further action is required, it is important to review the assessment in case it changes. Temperature is the most reliable way of ensuring the risk of exposure is minimised, therefore by keeping hot water hot, cold water cold and keeping it moving.

Measures to be taken to reduce risk.

This includes flushing the system prior to letting the property, avoiding debris entering the system, setting temperature controls for the hot water cylinder to ensure water is stored at a suitable temperature (60 degree). Risk is furthered lowered where water heaters such as combi boilers and electric showers are installed because there is no water storage.

What you need to provide.

Documented evidence must be provided of a risk assessment having being undertaken on your property once every two years. The document must be a detailed written report on the conditions at the time of inspection together with a schematic drawing of the water system and any remedial actions required to reduce the risk of legionella.

What tenants need to know.

Tenants should be advised of any control measures put in place that should be maintained. For example not to adjust the temperature setting and to clean the shower heads regularly. They also need to inform the landlord if the hot water is not heating properly or if there are other problems with the system so that the appropriate action can be taken.

What to do with a vacant property.

It is important that water is not allowed to stagnate within the water system and as a general rule outlets on cold and hot water systems should be flushed for 15 minutes at least once a week to maintain a degree of water flow and minimise chance of stagnation.

How often does the assessment need to be reviewed.

The HSE guidelines recommend an assessment should be carried out at least once every two years in order to maintain up to date records. It is also recommended that if any relevant changes are made to the property which would affect the system to get them reassessed.

Will the property be inspected.

HSE and local authority do not proactively test properties or ask for evidence of risk assessment taking place however if a tenant were to contract legionella’s disease from the water system at the property the landlord maybe liable to prosecution under the Health and Safety at Work Act and would have to demonstrate to the court that they had fulfilled their legal duty.

What should you do?

To ensure you are fully compliant with the law and your tenants are safe book a professional legionella control association registered provider to carry out a water risk assessment.

As part of Keylet’s management service, we supply and co-ordinate the legionella risk assessment checks through our reliable contractors.

Should you wish to discuss your property in relation to the legionnaire’s law in more detail, please feel free to contact our housing department on 02920 489000.