Landlords Guide to Managing Legionnaires’ Disease
Under UK law residential landlords have responsibilities to ensure their tenants are not at risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria and infection from Legionnaires’ disease. In most cases, a residential landlord renting a small domestic property will need to conduct a legionella risk assessment and nothing more – it’s unlikely there will be a need to carry out water testing. This is because most domestic water systems are considered to present a low risk of legionella exposure; therefore, a risk assessment will normally suffice in most situations.
Do landlords need to review the legionella risk assessment?
There is still a requirement to review the risk assessment regularly, however. This will ensure any changes to the property or its water systems, or something else that may change the level of risk is spotted early and can be rectified. For example, if the property is empty for a time, the water systems (taps, showers etc.) should be flushed through prior to new tenants arriving. If there is a hot water tank, the temperature should be set at 60 degrees Celsius to ensure bacteria is killed off. Tenants should be made aware of this so they do not change it.
Another element that should be carefully considered by the landlord is the presence of any plumbing pipework that is no longer required or used. This should be removed to eliminate the presence of any stagnant water and the chance of bacteria developing within that pipework.
Providing advice to tenants
It is important that landlords make their tenants aware of the risks from legionella and what they need to do to manage them. Showers are noted to be one of the riskier areas of the home, even though they still pose a much lower risk to those present than water sources in other commercial and business settings. However, the landlord should advise the tenants to clean the shower head regularly, and to flush it through if they do not use it for a time – for example, if they have been away on holiday. Electric showers are usually safer, as they only heat water when required and are usually supplied with cold water that is heated only when used.
The importance of regular flushing of the water systems
Some residential properties that are rented out may be occupied for long periods. However, any domestic rental property may have times when it is empty. When this occurs, the landlord should make plans to flush through the system periodically while it is empty – this is to reduce the risks associated with stagnating water. By doing so, the chances of Legionella bacteria multiplying in the system will be much reduced. This flushing should ideally be done weekly where required.
The landlords’ legionella risk assessment should identify points of concern such as this, so there are already control systems and processes in place. This will help reduce the chances of a domestic rental property being affected by an increase in legionella bacteria beyond levels that are considered safe. While the odds of such a property becoming a problem like this are long, proper management of the legionella risks that may crop up is still essential to ensure the health and safety of tenants, their guests and others is protected.
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