Based on our experience, the majority of landlords are unaware of their obligations in relation to controlling the risk of Legionella in their rental properties. This simple guide is designed to help any landlord who has just heard about the regulations but has no idea where to start.
Step 1: Ask your letting agent
If you have a letting agent it makes sense to ask them for advice as they are the property professionals. Do they have a Legionella control scheme in place which you can sign up to? Do they have any approved suppliers of Legionella control services who you can contact? Do they produce any information for tenants about Legionella control? Can they recommend any suitable Legionella control training courses for you to attend? Hopefully they will be able to provide help and advice, perhaps assisting you in outsourcing a Legionella risk assessment to a professional firm. If they say they can provide this service themselves, be sure to ask for evidence that the person doing the work has suitable qualifications and experience. If the answer to these questions is ‘no’, don’t panic and read on!
Step 2: Download a copy of L8
The Health & Safety Executive’s L8 Approved Code of Practice for the control of Legionella is available as a free download online. Print off a copy and read it carefully. This will tell you what your legal obligations are and help you decide whether you want to employ a professional firm to carry out your Legionella risk assessment, or if you’re competent enough to do it yourself.
Step 3: Get informed
We recommend that all landlords undertake some level of training in Legionella awareness. Depending on how hands-on you decide to be, there are different sorts of courses to choose from. If you plan to delegate responsibility for the risk assessment to a third party, you will only need a fairly basic training course, but for those who plan to be more involved, a much more in-depth qualification will be needed. You can read our blog post on choosing the right course, or contact us to book your training session.
Step 4: Carry out a Legionella risk assessment
For most landlords, all they need to do to comply with the regulations is to carry out a thorough risk assessment of the water system and ensure that it is reviewed periodically (usually every two years). According to the guidelines, “A suitable and sufficient assessment must be carried out to identify and assess the risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria from work activities and water systems on the premises and any precautionary measures needed.”
The Code of Practice goes on to say, “The dutyholder is responsible for ensuring the risk assessment is carried out. The dutyholder is … the person who is in control of premises…e.g. where a building is let to tenants, but the landlord keeps responsibility for its maintenance.”
Furthermore, “The dutyholder must ensure that the person who carries out the risk assessment and provides advice on prevention and control of exposure must be competent to do so.”
If you choose to do the risk assessment yourself, make sure you are trained and knowledgeable about domestic water systems and the risk factors for Legionella. If you are not, you need to select a competent third party to do it, which could be your letting agent (if they are qualified and experienced), or a specialist firm like Compliance for Landlords (part of Urban Environments Ltd). An example of the sort of risk assessment we produce for our clients can be viewed here.
We also recommend that you make sure that any specialist firm you use is certified by the Legionella Control Association.
Step 5: Take any necessary action to reduce the risks
For many domestic water systems the risk presented by Legionella is low. However, your risk assessment may reveal some weaknesses or issues with your plumbing which need to be addressed in order to reduce the risk. Your risk assessment should list any necessary remedial work and then you need to ensure this is carried out.
Step 6: Inform your tenants
It is important that your tenants are briefed on the Legionella control system you have in place. We recommend putting together some basic information for them (this is a good example) which explains what the risks are and how you are controlling them. It’s likely that they will have a role to play in the control scheme, such as descaling showerheads regularly, so you should consider adding a clause to your contract to make sure that they comply.
Step 7: Review regularly
You need to review your risk assessment at least every two years, or whenever there are changes made to the plumbing system. It is also recommended that you do annual checks to inspect your water tank for sediment, rust or damage. Showerheads should be descaled quarterly and if any water outlets (taps, showers, toilets) aren’t used regularly, ensure that they are flushed through at least once a week. This means running the taps/shower for two minutes and flushing the toilet to circulate or expel any stagnant water which may have collected in the system. It is advisable to keep your distance while doing this so you don’t accidentally breathe in contaminated water droplets.
Legionella control can seem like a minefield, but for the majority of landlords it needn’t be a headache. Compliance for Landlords is an affordable one-stop solution for all the services and training you need, so give us a call on 01732 446474 and you’ll be compliant before you know it!