Unsure whether your rental property is high or low risk for Legionella? Take this quick quiz to find out.
Question 1: is your property more than 20 years old?
YES – older properties are at greater risk of Legionella as plumbing may be deteriorating. Rust, cracks, biofilm and sediment in pipes and tanks can indicate higher bacterial levels. Long runs of pipe, dead legs and blind ends can also lead to water stagnation which allows bacteria to flourish.
NO – the plumbing in more modern properties should be at lower risk, but make sure you do an annual inspection to ensure that all is in good working order. If your tenant reports any problems with water temperature, leaks or discolouration, take swift action.
Question 2: is your property in a hard water area?
YES – limescale is an important food source for Legionella bacteria, so make sure you or your tenant regularly descale taps and showerheads to keep calcium deposits under control. If water hardness is a particular problem you may want to consider installing a water softener.
No – good news for Legionella risk and one less thing to worry about!
Question 3: Does your property have a water storage tank?
YES – storing water increases the risk of Legionella as it can stagnate and any debris or biofilm in the tank will provide a food source for the bacteria. Water storage temperature is also a crucial Legionella control measure: keep cold water cold (less than 20°C) and hot water hot (over 50°C) to prevent bacterial growth.
No – combi boilers which heat water up from the mains on demand generally present a lower risk for Legionella.
Question 4: does your property have a shower?
YES – showers increase the risk of Legionella infection as they are the perfect mechanism for spreading the bacteria into the air. Legionnaires’ disease or other Legionella infections occur when a person breathes in tiny airborne water droplets of contaminated water, so taking a shower can be fatal if Legionella bacteria is present. Keep showers clean and free of limescale and ensure that they are used regularly to keep water flowing and prevent stagnation.
No – baths present a lower risk than showers, but Legionella bacteria can still be dispersed in the spray from a tap so keep taps clean and run them regularly (at least once a week, for two minutes).
Question 5: have you done any building work or plumbing alterations?
YES – if you make additions or changes to your plumbing system it’s important to review your Legionella risk assessment. If you’ve added or rerouted pipework, minimise long runs of pipe and remove dead legs and blind ends to reduce the chance of water stagnation.
NO – as long as your plumbing is in good working order, this is one less risk to worry about.
Question 6: is your property sometimes empty or under-occupied?
YES – properties which are void or not used regularly (such as student housing or holiday cottages), or even outlets which are little-used (such as guest bathrooms) present a higher risk of Legionella due to potential water stagnation and resulting bacterial growth. Any outlets which aren’t used at least once a week should be flushed for two minutes each week to combat this. Read our blog on flushing for more advice.
No – excellent news. Running taps and showers regularly reduces the risk of Legionella.
Question 7: are your tenants in a high risk category?
YES – people over 45, smokers, heavy drinkers and those with underlying health conditions (e.g. diabetes, heart disease, asthma) are at greater risk of Legionnaires’ disease. If your tenants fall into any of these categories it must be noted on your risk assessment and you must have measures in place to reduce Legionella risk.
NO – don’t forget to review your risk assessment when you have a tenancy changeover.
If you answered ‘YES’ to at least 5 questions, your property is in a higher risk category. Ensure that a competent person does a thorough Legionella risk assessment and review it every two years (or more often if something changes). You may want to consider using the services of an accredited Legionella risk assessor such as Compliance for Landlords.
If you answered ‘YES’ to 3 or 4 questions, your property is in a medium risk category. A competent person should carry out a Legionella risk assessment and it should be reviewed every two years (or more often if something changes). If you’re not sure whether you need to use an external risk assessor, find out here.
If you answered ‘YES’ to 2 questions or fewer, your property is in a low risk category. The law says that you still need to do a Legionella risk assessment and ensure it is reviewed when something changes. Here are some useful tips which will help you.