As a landlord, it is your legal obligation to ensure the health and well-being of your tenants. That includes assessing and controlling risks for exposure to the harmful bacteria including Legionella bacteria which is responsible for Legionnaires’ disease.
Although landlords are under no obligation to procure and/or show a Legionella testing certificate, they must keep a record of the risk assessment for Legionella as well as the control measures enforced. In summary, if you are a landlord, you must protect the health and well-being of tenants, conduct a Legionella risk assessment, and enforce measures designed to minimise the risk for Legionella.
Carrying out a risk assessment
One of the first steps that needs to be done is the inspection of water systems found in the property. These include showers and hot and cold water tanks. The goal of this inspection is to identify risks as well as determine possible control measures that need to be implemented. During this assessment, it is crucial to predict who might possibly be infected by Legionella, what are the risks, and what control measures can be implemented. Afterwards, landlords should keep a record of their findings and review and update these when necessary.
Keeping a record of your findings
What should you put in your record of risk assessment? There are a few key pieces of information that you should input in your record.
For one, your record should identify who did the risk assessment. It could be the landlord or a designated person responsible for the assessment.
If you have identified risks during the assessment, you should list these in your records. If there is a need to implement control measures, your record should also show these as well as how you implemented these.
Your records should also contain a basic drawing of the water system in your property, including parts which are not in use.
Make sure that you also detail the dates when the inspections and tests have been carried out and review the Risk Assessment if there are any changes made to the water system, or, the inhabitants of the premises change and affect the overall risk due to any medical conditions, age or other areas of vulnerability.
Control measures for residential properties
Owners of residential properties can implement control measures.
If a property remains uninhabited for an extended period of time, the water system should be flushed regularly to prevent the stagnation of water. Ideally, this should be done once a week. The system should also be flushed prior to the moving in of a new tenant.
If water tanks are used in the property, these should be fitted with a tight lid in order to prevent the accumulation of debris. The debris inside the tank can serve as a source of food for the bacteria.
Hot water should be stored with a consistent temperature of 60°C. When the water temperature breaches the 20-45°C mark, the Legionella bacterial population can grow rapidly, increasing the risk for Legionnaires’ disease.
It is also important to cut back/remove redundant pipework (deadlegs) which can potentially harbour the bacteria.
Finally, landlords should educate their tenants about practices which can prevent the accumulation of the bacteria.
What about testing the water for Legionella?
The need for water testing is unclear for many. Legionella testing for landlords is recommended if, for example, the water is stored at a low temperature and needs to be treated with biocide; in this instance it is highly recommended that you conduct monthly tests.
Tests are also highly recommended if the landlord or designated person is unable to achieve a consistent control scheme.
Finally, testing should be done when there has been an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease.