Guidance on Legionnaires Disease for Landlords

Legionnaires disease is a pneumonia-like illness caused by the spread of bacteria that can be incubated in the warm water of heating and air conditioning systems. The disease is not communicable between people.

Whilst the disease is usually best incubated in commercial heating and air conditioning systems and cold water systems where water temperatures are between 20 and 45 degrees celsius, domestic systems can also be liable to contamination.

Landlords are under a duty to ensure that the risk of exposure to tenants, residents and visitors by Legionella is properly assessed and controlled although normally, there is no reason why the landlord should not carry out this risk assessment himself/herself so long as they are competent. This responsibility is detailed under Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Importantly, there has been no change to UK legislation since the L8 Approved Code of Practice (3rd edition) (ACOP) was published in 2001.

However, L8 Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) was revised and republished in November 2013 and retained the guidance on the requirements of HSWA and COSHH for employers AND those with responsibilities for the control of premises including landlords (L8 ACOP, paragraphs 1 and 2). It applies to the control of Legionella bacteria in any undertaking involving a work activity AND applies to premises controlled in connection with a trade, business or other undertaking where water is used or stored and there is a reasonably foreseeable risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria (L8 ACOP, paragraph 22).

It should be noted that the need to undertake a risk assessment is different to a need to test for legionella. The former should be a reasonably simple process for an informed person. However, the assessment must be properly undertaken and documented.

The assessment will consider a variety of factors including;

  • The likely age of the occupants and their particular vulnerability to the legionnaires virus
  • The likely renewal of water within the systems. This will consider the size of the tanks, the level of occupancy and the likelihood that the property might become vacant for periods of time
  • The insulation of the tanks to thermal conductivity and physical contamination
  • Are the inlet and outlet pipes to the cistern at opposite ends of the tank?

The HSE’s own website states;

“A simple assessment may show that there are no real risks and are being properly managed and no further action is needed. It is important to review the assessment in case anything changes in the system.

Implementing simple, proportionate and appropriate control measures will ensure the risk remains low.

For most domestic hot and cold water systems, temperature is the most reliable way of ensuring the risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria is minimised ie keep the hot water hot, cold water cold and keep it moving. Other simple control measures to help control the risk of exposure to Legionella include:

flushing out the system prior to letting the propertyavoiding debris getting into the system (eg ensure the cold water tanks, where fitted, have a tight fitting lid)setting control parameters (eg setting the temperature of the hot water cylinder (calorifier) to ensure water is stored at 60°C)

  • make sure any redundant pipework identified is removed.
  • The risk is further lowered where instantaneous water heaters (for example combi boilers and electric showers) are installed because there is no water storage”.

We are not providing a detailed or extensive list here but provide the information within this post so as to best illustrate the sort of things that need to be considered when preparing the risk assessment required under HSE legislation. For more details visit the HSE website.

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