Landlords Legionella Risk Assessment – what you need to know and do.
*this topic has been updated from the previous release
There has been talk lately of Legionnaires’ disease and how landlords have a responsibility for combatting the disease. As landlords we are required to carry out landlords legionella risk assessments for the Legionella bacteria which cause Legionnaire’s disease and maintain measures to control the risk at our properties.
Do not panic, the RLA has stated that, “most rented properties will be low risk but it is important that risk assessments are carried out and control measures introduced.”
What actually is Legionnaires disease?
Taken from the nhs.uk website Legionnaires’ disease is described as serious lung infection caused by the Legionella bacteria. Initial symptoms feel flu-like, such as mild headaches, muscle pain, tiredness and a high temperature.
Once bacteria begin to further affect your lungs, symptons will progress to pneumonia, such as shortness of breath, a persistent cough and chest pains.
How does Legionnaires’ disease spread?
Legionnaires’ disease is caused by Legionella bacteria infecting your lungs. It’s usually caught by breathing in small droplets of contaminated water. The infection isn’t contagious and can’t be spread directly from person to person.
Legionella bacteria is usually found (often in harmlessly low numbers) in sources of water, such as ponds, rivers and lakes. However, the bacteria can rapidly multiply if they find their way into artificial water supply systems, such as air conditioning systems.
Large buildings, such as hotels, hospitals, museums and office blocks, are more vulnerable to Legionella contamination because they have larger, more complex water supply systems in which the bacteria can quickly spread.
The two things that Legionella bacteria need to grow and reproduce are:
- a water temperature of 20-45C (68-113F)
- impurities in the water that the bacteria can use for food – such as rust, algae and limescale
Although rare, Legionnaires’ disease has also come from contaminated showers, sprinkler systems and spas.
Legionnaires’ disease is rare in the UK. In 2013, 284 people were reported to have the infection in England and Wales.
Of these cases, 88 people (31%) were exposed to the infection while travelling abroad –mainly to Mediterranean countries, but also tropical countries such as India. However, given the millions of trips made abroad each year, 88 cases is a very small number.
Landlords Legionella Risk Assessments
These simple control measures will help manage the risk from Legionella and these should be maintained including:
- flushing out the water system by running all outlets for at least 2 minutes where the premises have not been used e.g. before letting the property or if the property has stood empty for a time
- avoiding debris getting into the system (e.g. making sure cold water tanks, if installed, have a tight fitting lid)
- setting controls so that the hot water is heated to and stored at 60°C
- the removal of any redundant pipe work
- advising tenants to regularly clean, descale and disinfect shower heads
Advice for tenants
Landlords are entitled to expect the tenants will play their part in ensuring control measures are maintained. Landlords should:
- inform tenants of potential risk of exposure to Legionella and its consequences
- tell tenants of any action which arises from the landlords risk assessment if appropriate
- tell tenants to inform the landlord if the hot water system is not heating properly or if there are any other problems with the system
- tell the landlord if the cold water system is not running cold
- tell tenants to keep the water turned over
The risk from Legionella may increase if the property is unoccupied even for a short period. It is important that water is not left to stand in the hot or cold water systems.
As a general rule, all outlets on hot and cold water systems should be used at least once a week for at least 2 minutes to maintain a degree of water flow and minimise the chances of stagnation. For long periods consider draining the system.
Make sure that the system is flushed through when it is re-occupied by running all outlets for at least 2 minutes.
What we do at Abode to control the risk of Legionnaires’ disease across our properties
The guidance is that landlords have a duty to prevent Legionella developing in their properties and the approved way to do this is through a risk assessment.
Should you find yourself in a court of law because Legionnaire’s was contracted in one of your properties, if you have employed a specialist to carry out the Risk Assessment and you have put the measures in place for the tenants to protect themselves then you will be clear. If however you have carried out your own Risk Assessment and they deem that you are not qualified to have done it exactly then there will be doubt over the protection given to the property.
That is why we believe an expert should be employed who is fully qualified and trained in this area to carry out these Risk Assessments, we are currently liaising with such a company to secure the best rates for our landlords and to begin the process of putting our managed portfolio through the process.
It is advisable that this should be done every two years, but this is not law so we will gage future risk assessments on a case by case basis.
While Legionnaires’ disease is a low risk for us all in our own home and our rented properties it is important to be aware that there is a risk and as landlords we are all liable.
We should be aware of our responsibilities and also make our tenants aware of theirs then we can minimise the risk even further, we will do this through a process of Risk Assessments on our portfolio.
We will be in touch with further details as soon as we have them.
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