The legal requirement to control the risk of Legionella applies to all landlords or, indeed, anyone renting out accommodation. However, this fact is not universally known or understood in the rental housing sector, so it’s important for tenants to be on the ball and make sure that their landlord is fully compliant with the law. But how do they best do this? We recommend that tenants ask their landlord or letting agent some key questions about the Legionella control measures in their home.
1. Ask who is responsible for Legionella control
The landlord, as the property owner, will have ultimate legal responsibility for Legionella control but they may have appointed someone else (a ‘competent person’) to manage it on their behalf. This could be a letting or managing agent, or a specialist Legionella control consultant.
It is good practice to find out who is responsible for controlling the risk of Legionella in your rented home so you can report any problems or concerns to them. We would also recommend asking to see evidence of the competent person’s Legionella control qualifications to ensure that they are appropriately trained and experienced.
2. Ask to see the Legionella risk assessment
All rental property needs to be risk assessed for Legionella, which means that there should be a written risk assessment which is up-to-date and complete. We recommend that the Legionella risk assessment should be reviewed every two years, or sooner if there have been any changes to the plumbing system. A new tenant moving in should also trigger a risk assessment review, particularly if they fall into a different risk category than the previous tenant.
As well as a written record of the plumbing system and the risks associated with Legionella, the risk assessment should also include a schematic drawing and other pictorial evidence of the key plumbing components. Again, these need to be of the current water system fixtures and fittings in the property.
3. Ask about Legionella risk controls in place
There are several simple measures which can be taken to reduce the risk of Legionella, including water being stored at the correct temperature and a regular programme of descaling. We advise tenants and landlords to work together on such risk controls. It’s important that cold water is kept cold (below 20°C) and hot water, hot (above 50°C), so tenants should report any unexpected fluctuations in temperature to the landlord, and also understand the importance of not tampering with thermostats.
It makes sense for tenants to be involved in descaling too, so we advise landlords to include a clause in the tenancy agreement which stipulates that taps and showerheads should be descaled monthly.
Lastly, if tenants have been away on holiday or the property has been empty for a week or more, it’s advisable to run all the taps and showers upon their return home to flush out any bacteria. Turn on taps in sinks and baths and run the shower for at least two minutes, making sure that you leave the room while the water is running (to avoid inhaling any airborne water particles).
As we have previously discussed on our blog, communication between landlord and tenant is an important part of Legionella control. While is it the landlord who has legal responsibility for ensuring the safety of the water supply, close cooperation between both parties will make the property safer and help to protect everyone involved from the risk of Legionella.