Legionella - Update for landlords
In this article:
- What is Legionnaires’ disease?
- How is the legionella bacteria transmitted?
- What are my responsibilities as a landlord?
- Assessing risk
- Prevention and control
Source: HSE's Leaflet
Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal pneumonia caused by legionella bacteria. It is the most well-known and serious form of a group of diseases known as legionellosis. Infection is caused by breathing in small droplets of water contaminated by the bacteria. The disease cannot be passed from one person to another. Everyone is potentially susceptible to infection but some people are at higher risk, e.g.
- Older people (usually 50 years of age or older)
- Current or former smokers
- Those with a chronic lung disease (like COPD or emphysema)
- Those with a weak immune system from diseases like cancer, diabetes, or kidney failure
- People who take drugs that suppress (weaken) the immune system (like after a transplant operation or chemotherapy)”
Source: CDC information
The Legionella bacteria are found naturally in the environment, usually in water. The bacteria grow best in warm water, like the kind found in:
- Hot tubs
- Cooling towers
- Hot water tanks
- Large plumbing systems
- Decorative fountains
As outlined in HSE’s guidance, landlords who provide residential accommodation have a legal duty to ensure that any exposure to legionella is properly assessed and controlled.
This therefore means ensuring periodic assessments are carried out and consequently managing any risk highlighted in the assessment.
A risk assessment will reveal whether or not any further action is required. In most cases the assessment will show that the risk is low and will suggest that no further action is required other than periodic assessments (i.e. another assessment carried out in 2 years’ time).
The Health and Safety Executive have offered a list of easy to follow control measures that can help to manage the risk of exposure to legionella. This includes:
- Flushing out the system before letting a property
- Avoiding debris getting into the system (e.g. ensuring the cold water tanks, where fitted, have a tight fitting lid);
- Setting control parameters (e.g. setting the temperature of the calorifier to ensure water is stored at 60 degrees Celsius.
- Making sure any redundant pipework identified is removed.
- Advising tenants to regularly clean and disinfect showerheads.
Also highlighted by HSE is the need for landlords to inform tenants of the potential risk and advise on any actions required based on the outcome of the risk assessment. For example, tenants should be advised to inform the landlord if the hot water is not heating properly or if there are any other problems with the system so that action can be taken.
For all tenants in a property 1LET manage we will soon be sending out an update to all tenants with information about reducing risk of exposure.