Do Landlords Have to Do a Legionella Risk Assessment to Comply with the Law?
Here is a quick summary, with further, important detail following:
Landlords are legally responsible for making sure that any property they manage is complies with UK health and safety law. This includes completing a legionella risk assessment.
Often, a basic risk assessment will do, but not in all cases.
A test certificate is not required.
Read on to learn what a legionella risk assessment is, if your property is at risk and how to minimise that risk.
In this article we look at whether landlords have to do a legionella risk assessment to comply with UK health and safety law. We consider what the law says, how risky residential properties actually are, where the hazards might lie, what can be done to control the risks, and whether landlords can do the legionella assessment themselves.
Do landlords need a legionella risk assessment?
As a landlord, regardless of the type of property or properties you manage or are responsible for, you have a responsibility to make sure the property is safe for use by your tenants, visitors and other people.
This is because you are considered to be operating a business by the safety regulators and must therefore comply with current health and safety laws, including the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, COSHH, ACOP L8 and other important documentation.
Your responsibilities include making sure there are no health hazards present that could lead to harm or illness to people using or visiting your property.
Landlords should adopt a ‘practical and proportionate’ approach to health and safety compliance.
Every landlord, from someone who rents out a single room to someone who rents several individual properties, must make sure they meet all current legislative requirements, including those that fall under the UKs health and safety laws.
As a landlord where does legionella fit in?
Legionella bacteria, which can cause the potentially fatal Legionnaires’ disease occurs naturally, but it can also colonise and take over manmade water systems such as those found inside buildings if given the right conditions to do so.
Landlords must ensure all hot and cold water systems, and other water systems present at their property are safe for use and won’t cause harm.
The risk from Legionella bacteria is one of the main water safety issues that landlords need to consider, and which should be managed to keep these risks under control.
Is a legionella risk assessment required by law?
The UK’s Health and Safety Executive uses the terms ‘practical and proportionate’ to describe the methods a landlord should adopt when focusing on health and safety law.
The same approach is sensible when considering legionella risks within a property.
Landlords who are renting out a domestic property, with simple water systems should not, under normal circumstances have too many concerns regarding Legionella bacteria… the associated risks of premises such as these are usually low.
However, it’s important to remember that it is UK law that every landlord must conduct a legionella risk assessment of a property they are renting out.
In many cases, a basic risk assessment should suffice, such as in the case of a rented house or flat.
However, in properties where a more complex or larger water system is in use, the risk assessment would need to be more complex and in-depth too.
It is best to consider the risk assessment as proportionate to the complexity of the water system in each case.
Will every legionella assessment highlight risks that are present within the buildings water system?
If the property being assessed is a simple domestic house, the risks from legionella will likely be very small.
If someone is living in that property and using the water supplies there regularly, the risk level would be minimal.
A few simple steps would be required to keep things that way.
If the property was vacant for several weeks, however, there would be a risk of standing water in pipework and these conditions can encourage the growth of bacteria, including legionella.
Even in this case, regular flushing of the water in the system on a weekly basis would likely suffice in reducing the legionella risks to a manageable level.
This could be indicated in the risk assessment, thereby highlighting an understanding of what must be done.
While landlords don’t necessarily need to create a written report, keeping a formal record of all risk assessments and steps taken to control the risks is a good idea in case you are ever asked to produce such records.
Are there other controls that can help landlords keep the risk of legionella as low as possible?
Yes, the temperature of the water in the property is an important consideration for landlords.
As a simple rule-of-thumb landlords should seek to keep the hot water hot, the cold water cold, and keep it moving.
Hot water should always be stored at 60 degrees Celsius, and reach the hot water taps at 50 degrees Celsius for example.
Legionella most readily multiplies at temperatures of between 20 – 45 degrees Celsius, so water temperatures within this range should always be avoided.
However, many modern properties use combi boilers rather than hot water cylinders or calorifiers.
Since flowing supplies of water are less likely to contain dangerous levels of legionella, a domestic water system with a combi boiler set to the correct temperature is a good alternative.
While conducting the legionella risk assessment, the pipework used in the water system should be looked at.
If anything is present that is no longer in use… called a dead-leg or dead-end, it should be removed to avoid standing water.
Legionella bacteria is far more likely to multiply when the flow of water is stopped and it stagnates, and biofilm is more readily able to develop here also.
Particulate matter and debris inside the water system should also be kept as minimal as possible.
The most likely place for such matter to enter the system would be via a cold water tank, if the top wasn’t properly secured.
Regular checks should make sure any storage tanks are clean and protected with a well-fitting lid, and insulated.
Do landlords need to obtain a legionella test certificate to confirm a risk assessment has been completed?
The simple answer to this question is no, a legionella test certificate is not required… in fact such a document is not recognised by the Health and Safety Executive.
Most residential landlords will be capable of performing their own legionella risk assessment.
In cases where the landlord is responsible for larger premises, such as a factory or other commercial buildings, enlisting suitably competent help would be prudent.
In this case, hiring a professional company such as Legionella Control International, with experience and qualifications in conducting legionella risk assessments and testing for legionella would be a good idea.
However, even in this case, the responsibility for managing the property and maintaining it under health and safety and associated laws falls to the landlord.
This responsibility for safety is not something a landlord can pass to an outside contractor.
As a starting point, it may be a good idea to conduct a basic risk assessment for legionella to get an idea of the complexity of the water systems that are present at your property.
You can then ascertain whether expert help is required – especially if the complexity of the water systems goes beyond your basic skills in risk assessments for legionella.
Expert Legionnaires’ and water safety specialists
Our teams of water safety specialists support landlords and those responsible for the control of waterborne pathogens including Legionella bacteria and Legionnaires’ disease in the workplace, helping them to protect their tenants and others and so meet their health and safety obligations in this specialist area.
We deliver professional legionella risk assessments, water testing, independent compliance auditing, City & Guilds training, expert witness support and other environmental risk management services that help keep people safe.