Guidance On Legionnaires' Disease For Landlords
Landlords of residential accommodation have responsibilities for combating Legionnaires' Disease. Health and safety legislation requires that landlords carry out risk assessments for the Legionella bacteria which cause Legionnaires' Disease and thereafter maintain control measures to minimise the risk. Most rented premises will be low risk but it is important that risk assessments are carried out and control measures introduced.
This note is intended to give a brief guide to what the landlord should do. Further advice is available from the Health & Safety Executive.
What is Legionnaires' Disease?
Legionnaires' Disease is a pneumonia like illness caused by the Legionella bacteria and can be fatal. The infection is caused by breathing in small droplets of water contaminated by the bacteria. The disease cannot be passed from one person to another.
Legionella bacteria are found in the natural environment and may contaminate and grow in water systems, including domestic hot and cold water systems. They survive low temperatures and thrive at temperatures between 20 - 45°C if the conditions are right. They are killed by high temperatures at 60°C or above.
Some consultants and letting agents are misinterpreting or misunderstanding landlord's responsibilities regarding legionella risks. They are claiming that Guidance from HSE is somehow new legislation imposing new requirements on residential landlords. This is wrong. The HSE themselves say that the legislation has not been changed and any misinterpretation/misunderstanding can impose unnecessary financial burdens on landlords where they have been charged for legionella testing certificates that they do not actually need. HSE emphasise that legionella testing/sampling is generally not required in domestic hot water systems and then only in exceptional circumstances.
Landlords are under a duty to ensure that the risk of exposure to tenants, residents and visitors by Legionella is properly assessed and controlled.
Normally there is no reason why the landlord should not carry out this risk assessment himself/herself so long as they are competent. Usually there will be no need to employ a consultant. The assessment should be a straight forward simple exercise in ordinary domestic premises.
For most residential settings the risk assessment may well show the risks are low so long as simple control measures referred to in the next section are followed. This will apply to houses or flats with small domestic type water systems where the water turnover is high. Provided the risk assessment shows that the risks are insignificant and the control measures are being properly managed no further action would be necessary. It is important, however, to keep the assessment under review periodically in case anything changes to the system.
The rest of this guide for Legionnaires' Disease contains useful information on the following topics:
- Carrying out risk assessments
- Control measures
- HSE Guidance
- The landlord/letting agent's responsibilities
- Reviewing the assessment
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