Legionella Risks – Some Consultants & Letting Agents Misinterpret Legionella Laws
Many property consultants and letting agents wrongly advise landlords that they are responsible under new legislation to control the risk of Legionella. It is not suggested that such advise is purposely given, but due to misinterpretation of legislation and other guidance which may be available such as HSE’s (Health and Safety Executive) Approved Code of Practice for example. This incorrect advice can cause unnecessary costs to landlords who may commission
Legionella testing to obtain certificates that aren’t required. Landlords are not required to obtain a Legionnaires testing certificate, although there is no problem with obtaining one of course.
Landlord do have an obligation to assess and control the risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria in premises which are let and where water is used, stored and there is reasonably foreseeable risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria, however this obligation is not met by obtaining a Legionnaires testing certificate however.
Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 imposes an obligation for landlords to have a duty of care to their tenants health and safety. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (“COSHH”) provides the framework of actions to control the risk form a range of hazardous substances, which includes biological agents such as Legionella, to assess the risks and take any necessary measures to control any risk there maybe.
From this we derive the legal requirement is to assess the risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria in a premises before it let and to take any measures that may be needed if there is such a risk.
The risks in hot and cold water systems in most residential properties are low due to regular water usage. There are simple control measures will help ensure the risks remain low such as:
- flushing out the system prior to letting the property
- avoiding debris getting into the system (e.g. if cold water tank is fitted, it should have a tight fitting lid)
- setting control parameters (e.g. setting the temperature of the hot water cylinder to ensure water is sotred at 60°C)
- make sure any redundant pipework found is removed
- water heaters (combi-boilers and electric showers) lower risk because there is no water storage
Who can assess the risks?
In majority of cases, landlord can assess the risks themselves, compliance is not necessarily difficulty or costly. A landlord does not need to be trained or accredited to carry out a Legionella risk assessment, but in some cases landlord prefer for a person who is trained to carry out the assessment. LA Lettings uses reputable and fully trained Legionella risk assessors. If you want to carry out risk assessments yourself you may wish to read further information available on the HSE website.
What is Legionella?
Legionellosis is a collective term for diseases caused by legionella bacteria including the most serious Legionnaires’ disease, including the similar but less serious conditions of Pontiac fever and Lochgoilhead fever. Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia and everyone is susceptible to infection. Legionella bacteria are widespread in natural water systems, such as rivers and ponds. However, the conditions are rarely right for people to catch the disease from these sources.
Outbreaks of the illness usually occur from exposure to legionella growing in purpose-built systems where water is maintained at a temperature high enough to encourage growth, e.g. cooling towers, evaporative condensers, hot and cold water systems and spa pools used in all sorts of premises (work and domestic). This article does not focus on what the Legionella or associated terms mean nor how the illness is contracted, you can read more about that here.
Author: Mr Sasha Charles
Sources: HSE & Landlord Advice UK