Are Your Tenants Safe From Legionella?

How Landlords Can Stay Compliant 

Protecting your tenants from Legionnaire’s Disease and meeting health and safety obligations go hand in hand. 

Landlords are responsible for the health and safety of tenants who live in their properties. This means that they have an obligation to identify any hazards or health issues that may exist in the building and take the necessary steps to eradicate any threats to their wellbeing. In the case of legionella, this bacterium is harboured in both natural and manmade water sources and is responsible for the potentially life-threatening condition known as Legionnaire’s Disease. To avoid your tenants contracting this serious form of pneumonia, all landlords should make sure they take their obligations to check for legionella seriously. 

How Legionella Develops

If water is stored at temperatures between 20 and 45 degrees Celsius, there is a risk of legionella developing and spreading. In domestic settings, the threat of legionella is exacerbated by systems including air conditioning units, cooling towers, spa pools and even water storage tanks. Where your building has multiple tenants, there is an added risk as there may be a much lower water pressure supplied to each of the dwellings, so water storage in header tanks at the top of your property is a typical setup that could be problematic. Any type of water storage tank poses a significant threat to your tenants in terms of coming into contact with legionella. 

Contracting Legionnaire’s Disease

Your tenants could be at risk if they breathe in invisible water droplets from a source that is contaminated with the legionella bacterium. Although tenants of any age could become seriously ill from this contact, young children, elderly residents or anyone with a compromised immune system are more likely to be affected. 

Landlord Responsibilities 

In order to mitigate the risks posed by the existence of legionella in rental properties, landlords have serious responsibilities to meet in order to comply with the COSHH and Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974. Landlords should prove that they’ve taken the necessary steps to identify if there is a risk of legionella being present in their building. Regular risk assessments should be taken, including legionella testing if it is deemed that poor water management has led to your supply becoming contaminated. If the legionella bacterium is identified in any of your water storage tanks or any other source, then you should have a clearly defined strategy in place to remove this threat from the property and safeguard the health of your tenants. 

Remaining Compliant 

Legionella management is not a one-time action. In order to remain compliant as a landlord, you should undertake regular legionella risk assessments every two years as a guide, or each time there is a change in tenancy. Keeping written documentation detailing the type and level of your assessment strategy will also assist in remaining compliant should the HSE ever call upon you to carry out an inspection. Fines starting at £124 per hour can be charged if they discover that you haven’t carried out a legionella risk assessment or have no documentation in place to support your checks. 

To safeguard the future health of your tenants, make sure your legionella risk assessment strategy is watertight and up-to-date to prevent the possibility of anyone contracting Legionnaire’s Disease on your premises.