Since 2013 health and safety legislation has required landlords to control the risk of Legionella in rental properties. In this context, the definition of a landlord is far-reaching, and includes anyone who rents out property, even if it’s just a room in their own home. The ultimate responsibility is very much on the landlord to ensure that the correct measures are taken, but the burden doesn’t have to sit entirely on their shoulders. By developing and maintaining a good relationship with tenants, and helping them understand the role they can play in day-to-day Legionella control, landlords can reduce the risks and enhance their peace of mind.
Our engineers often see at first hand the problems for Legionella control when landlord and tenant don’t have mutual respect for one another. An acrimonious relationship can lead to a number of difficulties, including accessing the property to carry out risk assessments; lack of care for the property by the tenant; unwillingness to carry out maintenance and repairs by the landlord; a breakdown in communication; all of which ultimately leads to a neglected water system which carries an increased risk of Legionella.
Conversely, having a good relationship with your tenant can be hugely beneficial for Legionella control. If you have a mutual understanding of the risk from Legionella, and the shared benefits of controlling the risk (a healthier living environment for the tenant and legal compliance for the landlord), you can easily create a win-win situation which will save time and money.
We recommend getting off on the right foot with your tenant by educating them about the legal position. Explaining your responsibility for Legionella control enhances their perception of you as a responsible landlord and reassures them of the quality of the accommodation. They don’t need to know the finer points of the law and the detailed processes you’re implementing, but it’s important they have a basic understanding of the risks and the control measures in place. Whether you work through a letting or managing agent, or deal direct with your tenants, a quick verbal explanation at the viewing stage will set the scene and then when you get to contract signing you can provide more detailed information.
When it comes to the contract, we recommend including a section on Legionella control, explaining your responsibilities and those of the tenant. If the property is in a hard water area, include a clause about descaling of taps and showerheads, stipulating that the tenant should carry this out on a regular basis. You should also include a requirement to alert you to any problems with water temperature, leaks or corrosion in the pipework or any other areas of concern with the plumbing or water supply. If you have thermostatic controls for hot water, the tenant should not be permitted to tamper with the settings. Lastly, if the tenant is going to be away and the property left empty for more than a week, they need to notify you so you can ensure that the water system is flushed weekly in their absence.
Since the age, health and lifestyle of your tenants will affect their personal susceptibility to Legionnaires’ disease, you must be informed about any change of circumstances relating to these factors. Smokers, those over 50, people with underlying health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, those with respiratory problems (e.g. asthma) and anyone whose immune system is compromised (e.g. as a result of cancer treatment), are all at a heightened risk from Legionella. If your tenant falls into any of these categories at any point, you need to know and take it into account when assessing the risk.
In addition to these contractual clauses, it’s a good idea to include a simple leaflet in your tenant welcome pack summarising the risk factors and control measures for Legionella. This will provide reassurance that you are taking your responsibilities seriously and act as a handy reference guide should they need it.
If you choose to work with an external Legionella control partner such as Compliance for Landlords, inform your tenants and let them know what the company will be doing and when. Some of our clients who have large portfolios of rental property ask us to handle all tenant liaison so we book appointments direct to avoid the landlord having to attend. Rest assured that our staff are trained to provide the highest standards of customer service.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that when we visit a property we need to be able to access all areas of the plumbing system, including water tanks, outside taps, boilers and pipework. If keys are needed for us to gain entry to plant rooms, roof spaces or storage units, please make sure they are available.
If you and your tenants work together on Legionella control in this way, legal compliance will be easier, cheaper and quicker. If you need help or advice, or would like a no-obligation quote, don’t hesitate to contact us.