C & A Wilson

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Legionnaires Risk Assessment Is Landlords And Letting Agents Legal Responsibility

Posted 5th July, 2015
By law landlords and letting agents have to carry out stringent risk assessments to detect probabilities of Legionnaires disease and if found in any of their properties, then they must carry out the necessary steps to eliminate it.

Legionnaires disease has similar pneumonia like symptoms however it can be lethal. It derives from Legionella bacteria which are caused when the temperature of the water in lakes, rivers and water systems encourages the growth of bacteria. People contract the fatal disease when breathing in small droplets of water containing the bacteria floating in the air. Any water going through a recirculation process or stored is open to the threat.

There are guidelines that are available and which apply to England, however the rest of Britain will have similar legal responsibilities placed on landlords and lettings agents; although there may be many important differences. It is in everybody’s interest to find out expert advice as every case may be judged differently by the courts.

There are currently two guides published by the Health & Safety Executive which outlines an Approved Code of Practice:

All landlords are legally responsible to carry out the risk assessments when managing any of their properties; however lettings agents operating a full management service are legally responsible.

Properties at most risk are HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) and besides the annual appliance and fire safety checks that are the norm, the person or company responsible for the property has to carry out the Legionnaire’s risk assessment, this is specified in The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006.

Generally buy-to-let properties which are individual residences do not pose a risk of Legionella, but by law no matter how minute a chance of the bacteria appearing, all landlords and lettings agents must carry out the risk assessment. Records of the checks must be kept for, at the very least, five years by the responsible parties.

The bacteria growth is encouraged in water storage tanks and hot and cold water systems, which is then spread through showers and taps that may not have been used for a period of time. Risk assessments are carried out to find potential areas that could encourage Legionella.

Once these have been identified then steps must be taken to control or eliminate the bacteria.

Lettings agents and landlords may find that carrying out their own assessments is acceptable, but some landlords may consider bringing in professional risk assessment companies to carry out the initial check and then do it themselves every year. Wilson Plumbing and Heating are able to carry our Legionella Risk Assessments and put together an action plan and annual check list.

The greatest risk of the bacteria appearing is when water temperatures are between 20 degrees C and 45 degrees C, such as showers and air conditioning systems that have not been used for some time which may carry stagnant water, any rubbish in water systems and thermostatic mixing valves.

These should all be rigorously checked and then the necessary action taken if applicable.

Something that should not be taken for granted is whether tenants are at risk of contracting the disease because of their age, lifestyle and health. Heavy drinkers, smokers, sufferers of kidney and respiratory diseases and those with deficient immune systems can be ‘open’ to the disease.

The best ways to limit the risk are by, properly cleaning out shower heads, regular air conditioning services, disinfecting water systems and by clearing out stagnated water pools or simply getting rid of them. Other methods include covering water cisterns properly and removing any rubbish or debris present, removing any dead legs from pipe work and insulating pipes.

It is always advisable for landlords and agents to supply tenants with information which will give them advice about such risks and tell them to clean shower heads and to run water off regularly.

If you would like more information please do not hesitate to contact Craig Wilson at Wilson Plumbing and Heating.


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