All Landlords who provide residential accommodation, as the person in control of the premises or responsible for the water systems in their premises, have a legal duty to ensure that the risk of exposure of tenants to Legionella is properly risk assessed and controlled. This duty extends to residents, guests, tenants and customers.
Landlords can carry out a risk assessment yourself if you are competent, or employ somebody who is!
Where a managing or letting agent/company is used, the management contract should clearly specify who has responsibility for maintenance and safety checks, including managing the risk from Legionella. Where there is no contract or agreement in place or it does not specify who has responsibility, the duty is placed on whoever has control of the premises and the water system in it, and in most cases, this will be the landlord themselves.
All water systems require a risk assessment, but not all systems require elaborate and expensive control measures. A risk assessment may show that there are no real risks from Legionella, but if there are, implementing appropriate control measures will prevent or control these risks.
The law requires simple, proportionate and practical actions to be taken, including identifying and assessing sources of risk, managing the risk, preventing or controlling the risk; and periodically checking that any control measures are effective.
For most residential settings, the risk assessment may show the risks are low, in which case no further action may be necessary, eg: housing units with small domestic-type water systems where water turnover is high. If the assessment shows the risks are insignificant and are being properly managed to comply with the law, no further action may be required, but it is important to review the risk assessment regularly (periodically) in case anything changes in the system. The frequency of inspection and maintenance will depend on the system and the risks associated with it. Basic control measures can help manage the risk of exposure to Legionella and should be implemented (where necessary), such as:
- flushing out the water system before letting the property;
- avoiding dirt and debris getting into the system (eg ensure the cold water tanks, where fitted, have a tight-fitting lid);
- setting control parameters (eg setting the temperature of the calorifier to ensure water is stored at 60 °C);
- making sure any redundant pipework identified is removed;
- advising tenants to regularly clean and disinfect showerheads.
Landlords should inform tenants of the potential risk of exposure to Legionella and its consequences and advise on any actions arising from the findings of the risk assessment, where appropriate. Tenants should be advised to inform the landlord if the hot water is not heating properly or if there are any other problems with the system, so that appropriate action can be taken.
The risk is likely to increase where the property is unoccupied as the water in the system will stagnate and encourage bacterial growth. It is important that water is not allowed to stagnate within the water system and dwellings that are vacant for extended periods should be managed carefully. As a general principle, outlets on hot and cold water systems should be used at least once a week. To manage the risks during non-occupancy, consider implementing a suitable flushing regime or other measures, such as draining the system if the dwelling is to remain vacant for long periods.
How can we help?
Total Environmental Compliance Ltd have over 20 years of experience assessing the risk of Legionella within buildings. Having worked with many housing associations across the UK, we are well placed to undertake risk assessments on domestic dwellings and understand the challenges faced by Landlords. Total Environmental Compliance can undertake Legionella risk assessments for you providing you with sensible, tailored and trustworthy advice ensuring that you are cost effectively complying with your legal obligations as a landlord.