New to buy-to-let? Five top tips on water hygiene for first-time landlords
If you’ve recently become a property landlord for the first time you could be forgiven for not knowing about current legislation relating to water hygiene and safety. Even the Government’s own website omits to inform buy-to-let property owners of their obligations on the control of Legionella! Fear not, we’re here to set the record straight and tell you what you need to know with these top tips:
1. Get informed
Anyone who rents out a property, or even just a room in their house, needs to assess and control the risk of Legionella, the bacteria which can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially-fatal respiratory infection. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has produced a couple of useful leaflets which detail landlords’ responsibilities on the control of Legionella (Essential information for providers of residential accommodation and The control of Legionella bacteria in water systems).
2. Assess your plumbing
If the property you’re renting out was built pre-war, it’s more likely that the plumbing may need attention. Look out for corrosion and rust, dead legs (redundant sections of pipework where alterations have been made) and blind ends (capped-off pipework). Legionella typically thrives where water doesn’t flow properly and therefore can become stagnant. It also feeds on algae, rust and other contaminants, so make sure that pipework and water tanks are clean and tidy.
3. Check temperatures
Water temperature is one of the best ways to control the risk of Legionella. The key is to keep cold water cold (below 20°C) and hot water hot (above 60°C) to prevent bacteria multiplying. Set thermostats to the right level and ask your tenants to report any issues with water temperatures.
4. Undertake a risk assessment
The risk of Legionella in domestic water systems is small, but landlords nonetheless need to undertake a risk assessment. The HSE recommends reviewing Legionella risk assessments at least every two years or when changes are made to the plumbing system.
5. If in doubt, call in the professionals
Controlling the risk of Legionella in a domestic water system is relatively straightforward if you have a reasonable understanding of plumbing and the risk factors for Legionella. If in doubt, call in a reputable professional firm to assist you (the Legionella Control Association holds a register). It’s also worth checking your insurance policy as some insurers insist on a professional risk assessment.