New landlord rules to keep tenants safe

  • Legionnaires’ Disease poses a serious health risk
  • The new Legionella Code of Practice places further responsibilities on landlords
  • Updated risk assessment requirements are essential

Whilst Legionnaires’ Disease is rare, it is an extremely serious illness, that has proved its ability to bring tragedy to managed properties.

It is spread through aerosolised waterborne bacteria, and can be particularly dangerous for older people, causing a high fever, cough, chest pains, breathing difficulties – and potentially, death.

A common source of infection is via water systems, but Legionella can also occur where water is stored on site and there is a possibility of transmitting breathable water droplets, creating potential exposure to Legionella bacteria.

When outbreaks occur in communally occupied properties, such as care homes, there is the potential for many people to be affected, and preventing the disease has been a major concern for landlords and managers for many decades.

New regulations

The 2013 Legionella Code of Practice places further responsibilities on landlords, requiring risk assessments for “all providers of residential and commercial accommodation”.

This means all premises being used in connection with a trade or business where water is stored or used, and where there is “a means of creating and transmitting breathable water droplets, thus causing a reasonably foreseeable risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria.”

Given that a flushed toilet is enough to meet this criteria, in effect this means almost all commercial landlords need to reconsider their management and take their new responsibilities seriously.

If you do not have the skills to do this yourself, it is essential to call in third party assistance.

Assess the risk

To comply with the new code, a risk assessment needs to clearly outline where management responsibility lies, including the name of the competent person and a description of your system. You also need to outline the competence-level of staff and confirm that key personnel have received appropriate training.

The assessment then needs to identify risks in the system. As Legionella bacteria thrives in water between 25 and 40 degrees Centigrade (Celsius), you must identify if and where these conditions occur, how water is re-circulated and re-used (for example in heating) and where aerosols might be created.

It’s also important to assess if any personnel or residents on site are more vulnerable, through age or compromised immunity and ill health.

Once this is done, list how you are preventing or controlling these risks, and how your ongoing monitoring, inspection and maintenance procedures will reflect this.

Make sure you include full records of the monitoring results, and any maintenance or inspection carried out, as well as arrangements to review the risk assessment regularly – particularly if there is reason to suspect it is no longer valid due to a change in circumstances.

With all this in place you can rest assured that you are doing everything you can to make sure this serious disease becomes an even more uncommon risk in the UK.