Q. I am hearing about some new legislation that affects Landlords surrounding Legionnaires disease? Is this correct that I should be carrying out some kind of testing prior to renting out my property now?
A. As a person who is responsible for water systems you have certain duties under Health and Safety law. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA), Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1999 (COSHH) and Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR) all cite the HSE’s Approved Code of Practice L8 as the recommended guidelines for the management of risk of exposure to Legionella. Legionellosis is a collective term for diseases caused by legionella bacteria including the most serious Legionnaires’ disease. Outbreaks of the illness 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). People contract Legionnaires’ disease by inhaling small droplets of water (aerosols), suspended in the air, containing the bacteria. Landlords who provide residential accommodation or who are responsible for the water system(s) in their premises are responsible for ensuring that the risk of exposure to legionella in those premises is properly assessed and controlled. All water systems require an assessment of the risk which they can carry out themselves if they are competent, or employ somebody who is. In most residential settings, a simple assessment may show that the risks are low and no further action may be necessary. (An example of a typical lower risk situation may be found in a small building (eg housing unit) with small domestic-type water systems, where daily water usage is inevitable and sufficient to turn over the entire system. If the assessment shows the risks are low and are being properly managed, no further action is needed but it is important to review the assessment regularly in case anything changes in the system. It is important that water is not allowed to stagnate within the water system. To manage the risks during non-occupancy, consideration should be given to implementing a suitable flushing regime or other measures such as draining the system if it is to remain vacant for long periods. So in a nutshell a Legionella risk assessment is now required by law and as a landlord it is your responsibility to ensure this is carried out. The good news is there are now many specialists in this field that can carry out the assessment for you and help you comply with Health and Safety legislation surrounding this.