What is Legionella?
Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia caused by the inhalation of small droplets of contaminated water containing Legionella. It is a simple fact that the organism will colonise both large and small systems so both require risks to be managed effectively.
What is a landlord?
A landlord is anyone who rents out a property they own under a lease or a licence that is shorter than seven years. Landlords’ duties apply to a wide range of accommodation, occupied under a lease or a licence, which includes but not exclusively, residential premises provided for rent by:
- local authorities
- housing associations
- private sector landlords
- housing co-operatives
The law and you
The law is clear that if you are a landlord and rent out your property (or even a room within your own home) then you have legal responsibilities to ensure the health and safety of your tenant by keeping the property safe and free from health hazards. If you rent out a property, you have legal responsibilities to ensure you conduct your undertaking in such a way that your tenant(s) are not exposed to health and safety risks.
What you must do
The practical and proportionate application of health and safety law to landlords of domestic rental properties is that there is a duty to assess the risk from exposure to Legionella to ensure the safety of their tenants. This is done by way of a risk assessment. A simple assessment may show that there are no real risks and the system is being properly managed and no further action is needed. It is important to review the assessment in case anything changes in the system.
Implementing simple, proportionate and appropriate control measures will ensure the risk remains low. For most domestic hot and cold water systems, temperature is the most reliable way of ensuring the risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria is minimised ie keep the hot water hot, cold water cold and keep it moving. Other simple control measures to help control the risk of exposure to Legionella include:
- flushing out the system prior to letting the property
- avoiding debris getting into the system (eg ensure the cold water tanks, where fitted, have a tight fitting lid)
- setting control parameters (eg setting the temperature of the hot water cylinder (calorifier) to ensure water is stored at 60°C)
- make sure any redundant pipework identified is removed.
The risk is further lowered where instantaneous water heaters (for example combi boilers and electric showers) are installed because there is no water storage.