Legionnaires Risk Assessments & Landlord Obligations

As a landlord you have an obligation to carry out a risk assessment of the water system within your rental property and take suitable precautions to prevent or control the risk of exposure to legionella.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) have an Approved Code of Practice and Guidance in this regard.  The Code confirms that private landlords have a legal duty to carry out a risk assessment and to ensure that the risk of exposure of tenants to legionella is properly assessed and controlled.

The Code can be found here:- http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/l8.htm

The risk assessment can be carried out by you, the landlord, if you are competent to do so, or by a suitably qualified third party.

Legionnaires Disease is a potentially fatal lung infection caused when an individual inhales legionella bacteria.

The bacteria can exist in any man made water system, for example water storage systems, taps, pipework etc.

People more susceptible to the disease include:

  • People over 45 years of age
  • Smokers and heavy drinkers
  • People suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease; and
  • Anyone with an impaired immune system

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.

Simple control measure can help manage the risk of exposure to legionella and should be maintained, such as:

  • Flushing out the system before letting the property;
  • Avoiding debris getting into the system (e.g. ensure the cold water tanks, where fitted, have a tight fitting lid);
  • Setting control parameters (e.g. setting the temperature of the calorifier to ensure water is stored at 60 oC);
  • Making sure any redundant pipework identified is removed;
  • Advising tenants to regularly clean and disinfect showerheads.

The risk may increase where the property is unoccupied for a short period of time.  It is important that water is not allowed to stagnate within the water system and therefore properties which are vacant for extended periods should be managed carefully.

The ultimate responsibility remains with you, the landlord, even where a letting agent has been employed to manage the property.

Landlords must regularly review the risk assessment and keep records.  Where risks have been identified, the landlord must take the appropriate action advised.

Failure to comply with the law could result in criminal prosecution, a fine of up to £20,000 and up to 2 years imprisonment.

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