Under Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, landlords are legally required to keep their properties free from health hazards and one of these hazards listed is legionella. But what exactly is legionella and how can you keep your property clear of it?
What is legionella and why does it affect your property?
Legionella is a bacteria often found in man-made water systems (like showers and water pipes) that can cause health problems for vulnerable tenants. This means that in theory legionella could develop in any property at any time. In reality, it’s properties whose water systems go unused for a period of time, for example between tenancies, which are especially prone to outbreaks. As most properties will experience at least a few days when a property lies vacant, landlords and letting agents need to be particularly vigilant as to the signs of legionella when preparing a property for market.
Preventative legionella measures landlords can take
Carry out regular checks and consider appointing an expert to perform a risk assessment. Many residential environmental agencies can carry out an examination to make sure there’s no legionella in the property if you don’t feel confident doing it yourself.
Eliminate the risk by investing in an electric shower and a combi boiler which only heat small amounts of water at a time, preventing water from lying dormant in the system and providing an environment for legionella to spread.
Landlords could consider reducing any unnecessary pipework from their property – again reducing the places in the property that legionella could begin.
In between tenancies, ensure that all showerheads are detached, cleaned and thoroughly disinfected. The shower is the highest risk area of the water system for the breeding of legionella – eliminating the risk of its development here is the best way to protect your property.
It is extremely unlikely that legionella will be detected in any of your properties, as long as they don’t lie empty for extended periods of time. That said it’s simple enough to regularly perform the above steps to ensure that conditions within properties and their water system remain sanitary and hygienic enough to prevent bacteria breeding within them. For that reason alone, checking for legionella should be a matter of best practice in the preparation of a property, regardless of whether it lies vacant between tenants or not.
For more information on legionella and its causes, download our free eBook, Legionella: What is it and What are Your Responsibilities?