New legionella laws for rental properties

There are new laws for landlords and letting agents to make sure their tenants are protected from legionella.
Following an update to ACoP L8 (the legislation designed to stop the spread of Legionnaire’s Disease), landlords and letting agents are required by law to carry out a risk assessment on all hot and cold water systems to ascertain the threat of legionella – or face hefty penalty fines of up to £20,000.
To comply with the new law, landlords and agents need to assess whether or not conditions allow bacteria to thrive, as well as identifying and inspecting areas of stagnant water, infrequently used outlets, debris in the systems and thermostatic mixing valves.
To minimise the risk of legionella developing, systems must also be disinfected. Tenants should also be advised about the potential risks and informed how to take precautions. The new guidance also insists that landlords and agents keep records for at least five years.
Mark KrullInstaller spoke to Mark Krull, Director at Logic Certification, to find out what installers need to know:
Q: Can an installer carry out a risk assessment on domestic properties and what does this entail?
A: Yes, the risk assessment can either be carried out by the landlord/agent or they can task another person with relevant knowledge, experience and training – such as a plumbing and heating professional – to do this for them. The risk assessment focuses on the following:
• Are there hot and cold water systems that can generate aerosols (tiny droplets of water) which can be breathed in by tenants and staff? If so, are there areas of corrosion, slime deposits, dead legs and stagnant water?
• Is hot water at a minimum temperature of 60C and cold water below 20C at the outlets? Legionella bacteria flourishes between 20C and 45C in dirty systems.
• Are systems and thermostatic mixing valves free of debris, correctly installed and maintained?
• Are water cisterns covered and pipework insulated in-line with current Water Regulations?
• Are shower heads clean and in good condition? These should be cleaned and de-scaled regularly in-line with HSE guidance, L8.
• Have domestic hot and cold water systems that are not regularly used (such as in properties that have remained un-tenanted for more than a few days) been flushed through? This should be done on a regular basis.
• Have at risk tenants or staff been identified, such as older people or the seriously ill?
A sketch of the system should be made and records of findings must be kept.
Q: What advice should Landlords be giving to tenants so they can minimise the risk?
A: Landlords should inform tenants of the potential risk from Legionella and advise them on any actions arising from the Risk Assessment, such as:
• Controlling the release of water spray or stored water
• Raising the temperature of water – this can cause a scalding risk, so thermostatic mixing valves should be installed.
• Showers that are rarely used, for example, should be flushed through regularly and water should not be left to stagnate.
Q: How often does a check need to take place?
A:Previous guidance stated the risk assessment should take place every two years, the new L8 recommends that a review takes place when necessary – e.g. when there has been a change in the system (or tenants).
Q: When did the law change, and how long do landlords have to check their properties?
A: L8 was updated in 2013, and landlords should be checking their properties now. If a tenant falls ill or, at worst, dies because of negligence, then landlords are liable to be charged under the health and safety at work act with hefty fines possible.
If a risk is found, the landlord must appoint a responsible person to implement control measures and improvements.
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