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Clarity on Legionella legislation

December 1, 2017 Kate Porter

It is important that landlords are aware of the current legislation where legionella is concerned for rented properties.
Legionnaires’ is a pneumonia-like disease commonly caused by the inhalation of small droplets of contaminated water.
It is a legal requirement for landlords of rental properties to carry out or organize a Legionella Risk Assessment. Landlords must assess and control the risk of exposure of tenants to legionella to ensure the safety of their tenants.
This does not require an in depth detailed assessment and landlords can carry out the Legionnaire’s risk assessment themselves if the property is a single dwelling or a flat with its own water supply (hot and cold) and they are competent to do so.
In particular landlords should; understand the different types of water systems, understand Legionella bacteria and the factors which increase the risk of an outbreak in a domestic setting and understand the control measures which if present will reduce the risk of an outbreak within a domestic setting.
A practical risk assessment should include a site survey of the water system. The assessor should understand the water systems and any associated equipment in the property to conclude whether the system is likely to create a risk from exposure to Legionella.
It is important to identify whether:
• Water is stored or re-circulated as part of the system (particular areas of risk include water tanks, dead legs, shower heads and/or long runs of pipe work containing warm water)
• The water temperature in some or all parts of the system is between 20 – 45°C (hot water should be stored in any tanks at 60°C)
• There are sources of nutrients such as rust, sludge, scale and organic matters
• Conditions are present to encourage bacteria to multiply
• It is possible for water droplets to be produced and, if so, whether they could be dispersed, e.g. showers
• There are parts of the system that are used infrequently e.g. guest bathrooms
• It is likely that any of the tenants, residents, visitors etc are more susceptible to infection due to age, health or lifestyle and whether they could be exposed to any contaminated water droplets
If the risk assessment concludes there is no reasonably foreseeable risk or the risks are insignificant and are managed properly to comply with the law, the assessment is complete. Although no further action may be required at this stage, we would still advise landlords to take control measures such as;
• Flushing out the water system before letting the property.
• Ensuring cold water tanks have a tight lid to stop debris getting into the system.
• Setting control parameters to ensure water is stored at the correct temperature.
• Removing any unused pipework.
Tenants should be kept informed of any control measures and tell the landlord if problems occur with the water system or if the water is not heating properly. NOTE: The hot water should be set so that the water is heated up to 60°C.
Tenants should be advised to not interfere with the settings on the boiler or hot water system. On returning to the property after a period of absence (such as a holiday or student accommodation left empty) tenants should run all taps for at least two minutes. Where showers are installed at the property and used regularly the risks are reduced. However, tenants should be advised to regularly clean showerheads.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) does not recognise a ‘Legionella test certificate’ and health and safety law does NOT require landlords to obtain or produce one. Records of any assessments should be kept and follow up checks need to be carried out periodically. The assessment of risk is an ongoing process and not merely a paper exercise. The assessment should be reviewed regularly and specifically when there is reason to suspect it is no longer valid.
Further advice is available from the Health & Safety Executive, visit
The Country House Company work closely with fully qualified professional Legionella risk assessors and can give further advice or arrange for a test to be carried out. For all properties fully managed by The Country House Company the landlords have been made aware of their responsibilities and the risk assessments organized.
For further details please call Katie Denton at The Country House Company on 023 92 632275  .