Please Note: This Article is 6 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.

Landlords and letting agents are being warned to comply with HSE legislation on controlling the risks associated with the water-borne bacteria, Legionella, or risk facing fines.

Legionella is a bacteria, which is often found naturally within aquatic environments but become a risk when conditions are such that allow the bacteria to proliferate rapidly. In susceptible individuals legionella can cause Legionnaires’ disease, which is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia. It is therefore essential that a risk assessment and water management regime are in place to minimise the risk of legionella to individuals who may be exposed to contaminated water systems.

In November last year, the HSE issued a revised version of their Approved Code of Practice, “Legionnaires’ disease: the control of legionella bacteria in water systems” (L8) which sets out guidelines and legal requirements for employers and duty holders in managing and minimising the risks associated with legionella within all water systems. The requirement to manage this risk now also extends to landlords and letting agents, regardless of the size or complexity of the hot and cold water system.

While Legionnaires’ disease is relatively rare (there were 359 reported cases in England Wales during 2010), it is serious and is often fatal. The HSE are taking the risks associated with legionella bacteria and Legionnaires’ disease very seriously and employers and landlords who fail to comply with the Approved Code of Practice they could face a hefty fine.

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Landlords and letting agents are identified as “duty holders” within the Technical Guidance that accompanies the ACOP L8. This means that, as duty holders they have a duty to assess the risk from exposure to legionella to their staff, residents, guests, tenants and customers by implementing appropriate control measures. This becomes crucial in residential buildings, where vulnerable people may be at risk, such as retirement flats, or where the accommodation is provided specifically for a group who may be susceptible to legionella.

Speaking on behalf of B & V Water Treatment, a provider of specialist water treatment products and services for over 35 years, Martin Joyce Head of Risk Assessment commented,

“The onus is now clearly on the duty holder for making key decisions about the frequency and necessity for risk assessments. This means that the duty holder must have knowledge, understanding and competency to make these decisions and training for duty holders and their responsible persons, now becomes more crucial than ever before.” 

Martin went on to say that choosing a reputable water treatment company to carry out your risk assessments is vital as you will be responsible if the risk assessment conducted is not up to scratch, or if a legionella outbreak occurs within your property. Similarly, ensuring you’re aware of the risks associated with legionella, which individuals are susceptible to Legionnaires’ disease and the measures you can take to reduce or eliminate these risks is vital as part of your responsibilities to your tenants.

The B & V Training Academy have worked in partnership with external awarding organisations to develop and launch ground-breaking new Ofqual accredited qualifications and one day training courses in Legionella Awareness, Legionella Control for Responsible Persons and Controlling Water-borne Infections within Healthcare. For more information about any of these courses, or the risk assessments available from B & V Water Treatment please contact enquiries@bvwater.co.uk.

The HSE have also issued advice and guidance specifically aimed at duty holders, which is available from www.hse.gov.uk.

Please Note: This Article is 6 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.
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12 COMMENTS

  1. What a waste of time and expense for ordinary non-hmo landlords. I can\’t see this carried out every 2 years on each and every council property but small private landlords once again seem fair game.

    • Hi,
      social landlords have to do this as well. Many, but not yet all, already do. As usual this will be HSE and media driven as and when deaths and prosecutions are highlighted.
      I worked in the legionella industry for 11 years (not now though) and trust me it\’s taken very seriously in the courts.
      Cheers

  2. Since most modern properties have condensing boilers which work directly off the main without either a cold header tank or any hot water holding one, how is there any \’water storage\’ in which legionella can develop?

    • Hi,
      \”Stored water \” at risk means stagnant water between 20C and 60C. In houses you\’re looking for areasor circumstances of standing water.
      So, can be deadlegs, showers/taps not frequently used (eg unused ensuites), properties void for > 30 days etc…

      For social landlords void properties is the biggie. As a rule of thumb they\’ll have 10% voids, so for very large organisations and councils this can mean hundreds per week. If they\’re empty for > 30 days, particularly out of winter, then LP becomes a potential problem.

      Cheers
      Rob

  3. yet again it is the small landlord who has to suffer \’dire\’ consequences! It no longer seems feasible for private landlord to rent out small properties. Me? I\’m getting out of it asap

  4. Yes i have just been asked to carry out this test. I do not know what it is ging to cost but I\’m sure it will be £60-£100. It does seem strange when I do not consider this for my own home where i have children.
    There were 340 cases of Legionaire disease in 2010. There could not be more than 10% rented housing so that would be 34 cases, i will be surpised if this iniative cuts down on any of the cases. Shower heads are a problem but if the water is hot enough it will kill the bacteria. This should be up to the tenant to keep clean.

  5. What is the world coming to!!! It\’s the tennants job to keep the shower head clean, the water comes direct from the water supplier and who doesn\’t use their taps regularly? I have 4 rentals and each one has had the same tenant for 6 years they have never been empty. As someone has posted I would not even think about getting this test done on my own house with 2 children in it. Another pointless expense. The person who has just put this in place probably owns his own risk assessment company so he will make a fortune.

  6. I have spoken at length on two occasions to united utilities regarding this subject and they are appalled that this is being requested, you can look at the water quality of your property free of charge and as this is done 24/7 and reported on weekly certainly meets with the annual risk assessment. If you have no storage of water, ie a combi boiler, no air conditioning, no old pipes, no water butt systems then you would be considered low risk.

  7. At what point does this stop?

    Add these charges to the landlord license, gas safety certificates, electrical reports, EPCs, the loss of tax benefits, agency fees, management fees, mortgage fees and quite frankly the private rental sector ceases to be a viable business.

    If it continues, this feeding frenzy of landlord\’s profits is going to result in many getting out of the business and much of the private rental returning to the public sector. What amazes me is that there\’ll be lots of tenants applauding this and believing that it\’s a good thing. They very well may think again once they have first-hand experience of how the public sector runs the rental market. What a sad state of affairs this is.

  8. If I let a flat in a block wouldn\’t it be better for the management company to get the assessment for the block – hopefully this will reduce cost?

  9. Malcom, children are generally not considered high risk unless they are immuno suppressed so that\’s not really a relevant factor.
    Simon, as a landlord YOU have a duty of care to your tenants to provide them with safe accommodation for which they are paying you. It stops once you have considered all the potential risks that your property may present. I would argue they are right to think it\’s a good thing as it may mean they don\’t die from something that is easily preventable.
    Orchid 5, the quality of the water being supplied to the property is of no relevance whatsoever and shows total ignorance of the subject.

    The majority of comments here show ignorance of the subject and it all seems fairly bitter because of the cost. Once your property has been assessed then you will know what the risk is. In the majority of cases it will be low and you won\’t have to do anything else unless you make a major change to the system. Stop your whining, get it checked out and move on

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