Landlord Guidelines for Legionella Risk Assessments

Landlord Guidelines for Legionella Risk Assessments

When renting out your property, regardless of shape and size, there are a number of safety checks and requirements that need to be carried out to ensure that your property is fit for purpose. Amongst the fire, electric and gas checks, it is also vital to make sure that your water supply is of a high standard and free from any risks to your new tenants. The biggest danger with this in mind is Legionella. Something that many people looking to rent wouldn’t think about, but as a landlord it is your responsibility to make sure that the water systems within a property are of the highest standard to reduce any future issues for you or your tenants.

Legionella is when hazardous bacteria is found in water and can become dangerous if inhaled or ingested. It can be detrimental to a variety of buildings and outlets such as leisure centres, offices and hotels, but can be lethal in residential properties and can lead to other health issues such a pneumonia and Legionnaires Disease.

The bacteria itself thrives in temperatures between 20°C – 45°C in water tanks and water systems which are stagnant or aren’t circulated regularly – particularly in empty properties that have been left unattended for a large amount of time. It can be dispersed through aerosols and water droplets produced by whirlpool baths and shower heads, as well as through spray and mist in the air. For landlords, you’ll be glad to hear that Legionella is rather low in houses or apartments that have combi boilers as they allow water to keep moving within he system – reducing the risk of the water to sit still in rust, sludge, biofilm and scale that can ‘feed’ bacteria. There is however an increased risk of Legionella in older buildings with open water tanks, so it’s important that your water systems are kept up to date to eliminate the chance of tenants potentially being exposed to Legionnaires’ Disease.

What is Legionnaires Disease?

Legionnaires Disease is a lung inflammation caused at first by infection inhaled from the bacteria in water, and is a severe form of pneumonia. As stated earlier, Legionnaires Disease can lead to adverse health issues and even death if not identified quickly. There are a number of people who are more vulnerable to the affects of Legionella such as the elderly and residents with poor immune function and lung issues. Some of the early signs of the disease include nausea, headaches, coughing, shortness of breath and high fevers. Similar to COVID-19 but not to be dismissed, these symptoms should be taken seriously as it could lead to more harmful outcomes in the future. If diagnosed early on the symptoms of Legionella Disease should last between 2-10 days with a treatment of antibiotics. As a landlord of any property, taking the right precautions early to eliminate this from happening is a must. The last thing you would want to happen is your tenants being exposed to substances hazardous to health.

What is a Legionella Risk Assessment?

Whether you have a combi boiler in contemporary buildings or open water tanks in older homes, it’s important to have peace of mind that the property you’re letting is safe for those living in it from the first time they walk through the door. It is a legal requirement for all landlords to assess and, if necessary, control the risk of exposure to legionella bacteria.

It is not a requirement for professional Legionella risk assessments to be carried out in England and Wales – however the legal document is if residing in Scotland. This is according to Health and Safety legislation with regards to a Legionnaires testing certificate. Although in England and Wales you do not need to pay for a professional to legally carry out the risk assessment, it is strongly recommended in the government’s ‘How to Let’ guide for landlords.

It’s suggested that a risk assessment should be completed once every two years for long-term lets, or before a new tenancy begins. Another instance to carry one out is if there have been notable changes to your property’s water systems. One risk assessment will usually cover the entire building that you’re letting and will look into a number of different variants. This includes:

  • Taking into account who is at risk
  • Are there any potential risks?
  • Testing the water for Legionella – this can be carried out by you the landlord or a contractor if you’re not feeling confident enough to spot the signs
  • Putting measures into place to minimise risk
  • Make a record of your findings
  • Review the assessment when required

It may sound like a lot of work but the risk assessment itself takes little time. From 20 minutes for a one bedroom one bathroom flat, to around an hour for a three bedroom house with multiple bathrooms and a garden. The process takes a digital reading of the temperature from all hot and cold water systems in the property, as well as a reading from the outlet pipes from the water tank. It’s also important to take a visual inspection of every shower head and tap testing for limescale.

Why is it important to carry out a Legionella Risk Assessment?

The control of legionella bacteria is down to you as a responsible landlord letting out rental properties. Your tenant’s health and safety is your main priority as small issues at the start of their contract could lead to large-scale battles in the long run. By carrying out a Legionella Risk Assessment your aim is to get hold of and control the legionella bacteria to reduce the risk of serious illnesses. There are a number of ways to minimise the risk with simple measures such as:

  • Taking out all redundant or faulty pipework
  • Make sure that all tanks and water systems are tight enough to voice debris getting in
  • Flush out water systems in advance of new tenants moving in
  • Set hot water cylinders to 60°C by utilising control parameters

The safety of the water supply in your rented property is one of many checks to make before letting it on the market. Drinking water safety plans (WSP) are another way to ensure that your building is supplying high quality water. It’s another risk assessment that gives the seal of approval that your tenants are using water that is coming from a healthy source. It may sound unnerving but these small checks can make a big difference.

If you are looking for guidance around Legionella Risk Assessments then Primary Water Solutions are here to help, please get in touch.

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