Are your tenants at higher risk of Legionnaires’ disease?
With the Daily Mail recently reporting soaring numbers of older people living in rented accommodation, it’s worth considering the level of risk presented by the type of tenants you have in your property when managing the control of Legionella. All landlords need to assess and manage the risk of Legionella in rented housing and the age, health and lifestyle of your tenants is one aspect of this risk assessment, but it should not discourage you from renting to these groups of people. As a rule of thumb, we advise that you review your Legionella risk assessment whenever you have a change of tenant.
Tenants aged over 50
Rising house prices, difficulty accessing mortgages, greater life expectancy and divorce rates among older people are all contributing to the massive growth in tenants over 50. Older people – and particularly those over 60 – are proven to be at higher risk of developing Legionnaires’ disease if exposed to Legionella. According to NHS Choices, 83% of the 284 confirmed cases in 2013 involved people over 50 years of age. However, if you are managing your water system properly and controlling risks adequately, there is no need for concern.
Student accommodation is likely to stand empty during university holiday periods. Void property presents a higher risk as Legionella can thrive in stagnant water where taps and showers aren’t run regularly and water tanks aren’t refilled. When your tenants are away for prolonged periods make sure you go into the property once a week to run taps and showers for a couple of minutes to flush out any bacteria.
Smokers are at greater risk of developing Legionnaires’ disease as their bodies are more susceptible to bacterial infections. Even people who have previously been heavy smokers are at increased risk, and a recent study has also shown that smoking cannabis may increase the risk further.
Underlying health conditions
People with underlying health conditions such as kidney disease, respiratory problems, diabetes or a compromised immune system (due to e.g. cancer treatment or HIV infection) are also statistically more likely to contract Legionnaires’ disease. Such people also tend to be more severely affected by the infection.
It’s important to remember that anyone can develop Legionnaires’ disease if Legionella bacteria is allowed to thrive, so the best way to ensure that all your tenants are safe from harm is to have a clean and tidy domestic water system. Browse our blog for tips and advice on how to do this.