Landlords and legionella – what are the rules?

by Ed Firmin

Posted on Tuesday, October 20th, 2015 at 10:00

Letting agents and landlords are required to carry out risk assessments for legionnaire’s disease.

What is it and why should I be concerned?
Legionnaires is an illness caused by the Legionella bacteria and it can be fatal. Legionella bacteria are widespread in rivers, lakes and water systems where the temperature of the water is fairly warm as this encourages growth of the bacteria. People can catch the disease by inhaling small droplets of water containing the bacteria.

Legionella bacteria can multiply in hot or cold water systems and water storage tanks. The bacteria can be spread via showers and taps, especially if they have not been used for some time. Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) are more at risk.

What do I need to do?
You need to carry out a risk assessment, which will identify any potential sources where the bacteria can grow, and if necessary take steps to prevent or control any identified risks. You can do this yourself by following the guidelines set out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or there are consultants that will do this for you.

The greatest risk is where water is present at temperatures between 20C and 45C. Stagnant water, in tanks for example, showers and air conditioning units that aren’t used frequently, debris in water systems, and thermostatic mixing valves will all be checked.

You also have to think about the tenants in your property. People who are older than 45, smoke or drink heavily, anyone suffering chronic respiratory or kidney disease or anyone with an impaired immune system will be at greater risk. If this is the case, then you should advise them of the risks and educate them how to clean shower heads regularly and keep you updated if there’s any stagnant water that forms within the property.

How do I protect against any risks that are identified?
You’ll probably have to disinfect any water systems, clean shower heads, service air conditioning units, remove any stagnant water, insulate pipework, and keep cisterns covered and free of debris.

Is that all I need to do?
Essentially yes. You’ll need to carry out a risk assessment, take action where necessary, and be able to demonstrate that you’ve done all of that. Review on a regular basis, and ensure your tenants contact you if there are any problems with their heating, water or air conditioning systems.

If you would like some advice on what you need to do to ensure you are compliant with the regulations, please get in touch.

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