As a landlord you are responsible for the property where your tenants reside, this means legionella bacteria growth where man made water systems are used can be an issue. This article will help you understand what your responsibilities are and the health risks involved.
As a landlord your duties are:
• To ensure the risk of exposure to legionella is properly assessed
• If any risks are identified, it is your legal duty to monitor and control the issue
• Assign a competent person to carry out legionella risk assessments and keep a record of documentation.
What is Legionnaires disease?
Legionella is the name given to a pneumonia type illness caused by legionella bacteria. The bacteria is common in natural water sources such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs. As the bacteria are widespread in the environment, they may also contaminate and grow in purpose built water systems. These include:
• Cooling towers
• Evaporative condensers
• Hot and cold water systems
• Whirlpool spas
What are the risks?
Any water system could be a potential source for legionella bacteria growth. There is a risk in your water system if:
• Water is stored or re-circulated as part of your system
• The water temperature in all or some of the system is between 20-45 Celsius
• There are sources of nutrients; such as rust, sludge, scale and organic matters
• The current conditions are likely to encourage bacteria to multiply
• If it is possible for water droplets to be produced and if they can be dispersed over a wide area, for example showers
• It is likely that any of your residents/employees are more susceptible to infection due to their age, illness or a weakened immune system etc.
Conducting a risk assessment is your responsibility, or your letting agency if they are managing your property portfolio. We can offer a full service to relieve the pressure and ensure that you are expertly advised and covered with regards to any risk to your properties, we offer:
• We are the largest LRA provider in the UK
• All of our field agents are employed by us
• We use state of the art technology
• An end to end solution
Identifying the sources of risk
To identify the risks in your water system a competent person should establish any possible exposure to legionella disease and complete a risk assessment covering:
• Any potential risk sources
• Controls in place to monitor them
• Monitoring, inspection and maintenance procedures
• Records of the monitoring results
• A date to review
If it is decided that the risks are minimal and they are being managed appropriately to comply with the law, your assessment is complete. No further action is required other than a review date. If you need to employ contractors to carry out any water treatment work, it is still the responsibility of the competent person to ensure the work is carried out to the legal standards. The competent person can be your letting agent who will manage the situation for you.
How do I prevent the risks?
You can do this by considering the type of water system that is needed within the property. The key point here is to maintain and operate your system under the expected conditions that prevent or control the growth of the bacteria. Your property management company will be able to advise you on this. As a property owner / landlord you should:
• Ensure that the release of water spray is adequately controlled
• Avoid water temperatures and conditions that favour the growth of legionella and other micro-organisms
• Ensure that water is not able to stagnate anywhere in the system, through long pipe lengths etc.
• Avoid using materials that encourage the growth of legionella
• Keep the system and water in it clean
• Treat the water to kill legionella or limit its ability to grow
What are the implications of not fulfilling your responsibilities?
Anyone who is overall responsible for a property, commercial or residential is duty bound by general health and safety law to carry out measure described in this document. By not taking necessary precautions landlords could face heavy fines and even imprisonment if a risk develops. These serious implications can affect landlords even if the tenants do not become ill, but there is a potential risk.
How can Countrywide Residential Lettings help?
We work with the UK’s largest Legionella Risk Assessment provider, they use state of the art technology and expert trained field agents to conduct all the tests you require. They will provide you with documentation to prove you have assessed the risk and taken precautions to minimise risk. Not only will this give your tenants peace of mind but ensure you are following government guidance and not as risk of implications.
Records should be kept and they need to include details about:
• The person or people responsible for conducting the risk assessment
• Any relevant findings of the risk assessment
• The written control measures and its implementation
• The results of any inspection, test or checks carried and the dates they were carried out
For further information visit www.hse.gov.uk, or visit one of our local branches who will be happy to help and advise you on any concerns you may have.