Legionella – do you know your responsibilities as a residential landlord?

A number of buy-to-let landlord clients and letting agent contacts have asked me recently for advice on what their obligations are in relation to the prevention of Legionnaire’s disease.

With a spate of recent outbreaks and with the disease being notoriously difficult to contain, landlords are right to be concerned. There are numerous specialist companies offering to provide ever more sophisticated Legionella audits (with a price to match) but what do landlords really need to do?

It’s worth looking at the HSE website which provides quite detailed guidance for landlords. The FAQ section explains that “In most residential settings, a simple assessment may show that the risks are low and no further action may be necessary…. If the assessment shows the risks are low and are being properly managed, no further action is needed but it is important to review the assessment regularly in case anything changes in the system.

In the case of most residential lettings of modern buildings a landlord should be able to carry out his (or her) own relatively basic review to conclude that risks are minimal. It is then just a matter of repeating the review periodically.

A more detailed audit might be necessary in historic buildings or those with old systems or water storage tanks.

In either case it is worth giving guidance to tenants in terms of reminding them to clean shower-heads regularly, asking them to tell the landlord asap if the hot water systems are not operating properly and indeed advising them to flush the system out before use if a property has been left vacant for a period of time (this is particularly relevant in student lets where properties may have been left vacant over the summer).

With a little bit of thought and effort a landlord’s duties can, in most cases, be discharged fairly painlessly leaving the landlord free to focus on other property management issues.

At Hedges we act for many clients in the letting sector and are always happy to have an initial no obligation chat should you have any concerns that we may be able to assist with.

An outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in New York - largest in the city's history - has left at least 12 people dead and health officials scrambling to contain the deadly bacteria.
More than 100 cases have been reported in the South Bronx, one of the city's poorest neighbourhoods.
Officials have traced the legionella bacteria to cooling towers in more than a dozen buildings.