Legionella Risk Assessment – a landlords guide

Since 2001, landlords have been required to undertake a Legionella risk assessment on their properties, and in November 2013 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) added a revised (and simplified) update to the Approved Code of Practice (ACOP), entitled Legionnaires' disease: The control of bacteria in water systems L8. This serves as a reminder for landlords to complete such an assessment on their properties every two years.

What this means is landlords must have a Legionella risk assessment carried out on each of their properties to ensure that the risk of Legionellosis infection is low. If this is the case, no further action is required by the landlord for another twenty-four months. If a risk is found, however, the risk assessor will, depending on the size of the risk, carry out further control measures on the water supply.

Dedicated Legionella risk assessment companies exist, and are recommended. However, for ease, landlords may wish to combine their Legionella risk assessment with a gas or water safety check.

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Legionnaires’ disease

Legionnaires’ disease (Legionellosis in its collective term) is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia. It can be especially risky for people over forty-five, heavy drinkers and smokers, and those who suffer from diabetes, chronic respiratory or kidney disease, lung and heart disease, and anything else which has impaired their immune system.

The bacteria which can cause Legionnaires’ disease, Legionella Pneumophila, can be present in natural water sources, which is why the HSE require landlords to have a Legionella Risk Assessment carried out on all their let properties’ water supplies.

To assist landlords, the HSE provide on their website practical advice on controlling legionella bacteria in water systems, as well as advice on what landlords must do to stay within the confines of the law.

Risk factors

In residential properties with domestic water systems and regular water usage, the risk will be very small. However, risk factors to consider are:

  • Cold and hot water temperature

To prevent Legionella growth, cold water should be maintained below 20°C and hot water stored at 60°C.

  • Stagnant water areas 

Remove any unused pipework or appliances; check and fully flush through the water system at any let properties which have been vacant for a long time.

  • Contamination in the water system

Ensure there is no accumulation in the system (e.g. rust, sludge or scale), and that all water tanks/cisterns are covered and insulated to prevent access for mice, birds, or general dirt.

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Arranging a Legionella risk assessment

In the majority of cases, landlords will be able to contract out their risk assessment(s) to a dedicated Legionella risk assessment company, to minimise the extra burden on their other landlord responsibilities.

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