Confusion often surrounds the subject of Legionella risk assessment requirements for landlords of private residential properties. This guide has been designed by Upad to clarify all current legislation surrounding Legionella and what landlords must do.
All information is correct at 24th August 2017.
Legionella is the causative agent of Legionnaires’ disease and legionellosis, which can develop following inhalation of small droplets of water from water outlets containing the bacteria.
While the infections caused by Legionella are rare in the UK - in 2016 there were 345 confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease - it is something landlords ought to be aware of in order to minimise risk for their tenants as well as themselves.
Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) does require landlords to ensure that their tenants are not exposed to health and safety risks and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) provides a framework of actions to control the risk from a range of hazardous substances, including biological agents.
This includes a requirement for landlords of both domestic and business premises to assess the risks of exposure to Legionella.
The rules aren’t unduly difficult to implement, but if you ignore them then fines of up to £20,000 may follow. Legionnaires Disease came to prominence in 1976 when it got into the air conditioning cooling towers of a hotel in the US and killed half a dozen American Legion army veterans attending a gathering there. But there have been UK outbreaks too, including one in Edinburgh in 2012 that killed four people.
By law, landlords must:
While it is not a legal requirement to produce a Legionella water sample test certificate, a landlord may be liable to prosecution under the HSWA if a tenant were to contract Legionnaires’ disease from the water system in their home. The landlord would then have to provide evidence to a court that they had fulfilled their legal responsibility under HSWA and COSHH. A written record of a Legionella risk assessment would be considered adequate evidence by a court.
Given the potential for prosecution, landlords would be wise to consider levels of risk within their properties and take appropriate action. The threat of a water system becoming contaminated with Legionella is higher when:
Landlords should inspect all man-made water systems in their property. The aim of conducting the inspections and the Legionella risk assessment is two-fold. Landlords need to identify the potential risks present and then put adequate control measures in place.
A good step by step for landlords to follow when conducting a Legionella risk assessment has been outlined below:
Landlords should include the following information in their Legionella risk assessment (if you are a landlord and use a Legionella risk assessment service, ensure all these are included in the report):
To help control the risk of exposure to Legionella, the Health & Safety Executive advises:
Landlords should also advise tenants to clean or replace showerheads regularly to avoid Legionella bacteria gathering there, although it is rare for this to happen due to the nature of modern showers it still isn’t a risk worth taking.
Landlords who prepare a “welcome pack” for tenants when they move in should include a request to flush out the water system, even if weekly flushes have been completed while the property has been vacant and once more prior to the tenant’s check-in.
High-risk properties include houses with older water systems or those that have stood empty for any length of time, such as student accommodation. As we have explored, the latter issue can be negated by ensuring weekly flushes of the water system are conducted.
Landlords whose properties meet these criteria or who would like to ensure peace of mind should find a Legionella risk assessment service, which ensures that a domestic water system has been reviewed and treated to the HSE’s Code of Practice on Legionella prevention, L8.
Despite infections caused by Legionella being very rare in the UK, the risk attached isn’t one worth taking as a landlord, and we highly recommend private landlords take all necessary steps to ensure their properties and their tenants are kept safe.