QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

Why do I need a Risk Assessment?

A Legionella Risk Assessment requirement is needed to fulfil compliance with the Health & Safety Executive’s Legionella Approved Code of Practice & Guidance Document, ACOP L8 (4th edition) and HSG274.

Although the guidelines are not law they have a special legal status within the ACOP L8 Codes of Practice enforceable under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and the COSHH Regulations (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health).

Landlords can be fined for simply not having a Legionella Risk Assessment in place.

Below is an extract from the House of Commons Briefing Paper Number 07307 (Click here for full paper - PDF file opens in separate window)

Commons Briefing Paper

2.2 Landlords' Responsibilities

Landlords are under a legal duty of care to ensure that the risk exposure to Legionella for tenants, residents and visitors to their properties is adequately assessed and controlled.

Specifically, Landlords are obligated to have a risk assessment conducted out on their properties followed by subsequent periodic reviews. Provided that the property is low risk (which includes most residential settings including houses or flats with small domestic type water systems where the turnover is high) there is no reason why the Landlord should not carry out the risk assessment themselves, provided that they are adequately knowledgeable about the water system in the property

What is a Landlord?

Speech Bubbles

A Landlord is anyone who rents out a property they own under a lease or a license that is shorter than seven years. Landlords' duties apply to a wide range of accommodation, occupied under a lease or a license, which includes but not exclusively, residential premises provided for rent by:-

Is it true that as a Landlord I am classed as a self-employed person?

Landlords, under Section 53 of the HSWA, are regarded as being self-employed and tenant(s) fall into the class of "other persons (not being his employees)".

If you rent out a property you have legal responsibilities to ensure you conduct your undertaking in such a way that your tenant(s) are not exposed to Health & Safety risks.

Keyboard

Do Inspectors sample the rental property market to ensure Compliance?

To our knowledge, both HSE and Local Authority Inspectors do not proactively inspect domestic premises or ask for evidence that Landlords have undertaken a Risk Assessment. However, if a tenant(s) were to contract Legionnaires Disease from the water system in their home, the Landlord would very likely be liable to prosecution under HSWA Compliance. They would have to demonstrate to a Court that they had fulfilled their legal duty so it is important that a Landlord assesses and controls the risks.

Who is at risk of catching Legionnaires’ disease?

At-risk groups

Higher risk groups who are more susceptible to infection include:-

Question-Mark

How in-depth is the Risk Assessment

The practical and proportionate application of Health & Safety Law to Landlords of domestic rental properties is that, whilst there is a duty to assess the risk from exposure to Legionella to ensure the safety of their tenant(s), this does not, in many cases, require an in-depth, detailed assessment.

The risks from hot and cold water systems in most residential settings are generally considered to be low owing to regular water usage and turnover. A simple assessment may show that there are no real risks and are being properly managed and no further action is needed. Older properties are more likely to pose a greater risk. Hot and cold water systems, whether old or new, may harbour dead end/dead leg pipework, dated header tanks and other data collated during the Assessment that identifies greater levels of risk.

Of what concern is an outside tap?

Outside Tap

There are many lurking dangers in our humble hosepipe. In June 2017 a 63 year old man died after catching Legionnaires’ disease whilst cleaning his patio having inhaled toxic bacteria which had grown from stagnant water within the hosepipe.

By using a spray attachment and a hard yard brush to scrub the garden patio clean a water spray was created which dispersed into the air allowing the bacteria to enter the airways in vapour form.

If you are using any kind of spray action – whether in a sprinkler, a rose attachment on the hose or even the good old thumb over the end – first flush your hosepipe at a distance. If any bacteria are lurking inside the hose, by putting the hose in the corner of the garden or away from people and turning the tap on full for a couple of minutes, you will expel the nasties without breathing them in.

Advice

I have a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). Can I still carry out a risk assessment myself?

Yes, although you may prefer to engage an independent and accredited contractor simply because there are likely to be additional water outlets within individual rooms as opposed to the usual outlets within a standard property. If required, we can carry out the risk assessment on your behalf; just contact us direct for a price.

I did not need a Risk Assessment before so why now?

Advice

The HSE periodically reviews Health & Safety practices and Codes of Practice. In November 2013 the HSE released its 4th edition of the ACOP L8 and for the first time domestic properties fell under the requirements of the ACOP L8.

How long does a Legionella Risk Assessment last?

The Health & Safety Executive & The Approved Code of Practice (ACOP L8) states that these should be reviewed at least once every two years in line with legislation and HSE requirements, or more often dependent upon changes to the water system.

Upon a Report’s expiry date, it is a requirement for you to keep a copy of each Assessment for a further two years, hence four years in total. These Reports act as evidence and a paper trail relevant to a subject property.

What does it mean if the Assessment result indicates a "low" or "medium" risk?

Q and As

This suggests that the chances of Legionnaires’ disease bacteria spreading and causing illness is exceptionally unlikely. However, you should still follow through with all the recommendations (if any) which the report highlights.

I have a “Point of Use” heater providing the hot water. Is this sufficient to heat the water to the required temperature. Do I need to change it?

There is no pass or fail as to how the hot water system works. There are several makes of POU units, such as Heatrae Sadia, Ariston, Crown, Elson, Redring etc. They are also quite often situated either over or under a kitchen and/or other sink unit. The Risk Assessment report includes these units.

Question Marks

How often do I have to "test" the quality of the water system?

It is important to highlight that there is "no statutory requirement to carry out routine legionella sampling" to domestic water systems unless there is a serious issue that arises from having carried out a Legionella Risk Assessment in the first place. However, where water temperatures cannot be controlled within the desired range, routine legionella sampling can be a valuable tool in managing the risk of legionella.

We Have a Combi Boiler, We Don't Need a Risk Assessment Do We?

A combi boiler is generally low risk but yes you still need a risk assessment. The ACOP L8 does not allow for any exemption and/or exception.

FAQs

Do I need a Legionella Testing Certificate?

There is a legal duty for Landlords to assess and control the risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria. Health & Safety Law does not require Landlords to produce, or obtain, a Water Testing Certificate. However, you do need a Legionella Risk Assessment report.

Where will you find Legionella bacteria?

Legionella bacteria is common in natural water sources such as rivers, ponds, streams and reservoirs. Legionella bacteria thrive in temperatures of between 0.20 and 0.45 degrees centigrade and can also survive dormant at lower temperatures.

FAQs

What is the difference between Legionella and Legionnaires?

Legionnaires' disease is a severe form of pneumonia; lung inflammation usually caused by infection. Legionnaires' disease is caused by a bacterium known as Legionella. Legionnaires' disease is not contagious and cannot be passed from person to person. The disease is transmitted by inhaling the aerosol of an infected water supply, not by infected persons.

Tick

How many cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been reported in the UK?

A Legionella Awareness Day campaign has uncovered that over 1,300 cases of Legionella disease have been reported in the UK since 2014, with gardeners and individuals aged 60 years and over being at particular risk. Over the three year period, 2014 to 2016, the incidence rate in England and Wales reached a mean of 6.1 cases per million population.

What is the mortality rate for Legionnaires' disease?

The fatality rate of Legionnaires' disease has ranged from 5% to 30% during the various outbreaks and approaches 50% for nosocomial infections, especially when treatment with antibiotics is delayed.

Risk

Can you contract Legionnaires' disease from drinking tap water?

Most people become infected with Legionnaires' disease when they inhale microscopic water droplets containing Legionella bacteria.

If you choke or cough while drinking you can take water into your lungs and if the water contains Legionella, then you may develop Legionnaires' disease which is a form of pneumonia.

My Managing Agent says I must use their Assessor. Is this correct?

Arrows

This would depend upon the arrangement you have with your Managing Agent. However, as a Landlord you are also the Duty Holder and therefore the risk assessment is your responsibility. You are also liable to ensure the risk assessment is carried out in a competent manner.

Am I able to do my own Risk Assessment?

Yes, you can, but you need to demonstrate that you have the knowledge, skill and competency to carry out the risk assessment correctly and our service supports you in this respect.

2 Years

How often do I need to do a Risk Assessment?

The Assessment of Risk is an ongoing process and not merely a paper exercise. The Health & Safety Executive and the Approved Code of Practice (ACOP L8) confirms and explains that risk assessments should be reviewed at least once every two years in line with legislation and “HSG274” requirements.

Vapour

How is the disease transmitted?

Like Coronavirus, bacteria can become airborne via droplets, water spray, mist or vapour and inhaled with the potential to cause pneumonia-like symptoms and illnesses.

I can obtain a Legionella Risk Assessment for less money. Why should I pay more?

Judges

Do they provide the option of Professional Indemnity Cover? Has sufficient data been collected, photographed and produced with a separate Tenancy Addendum and Schematic Drawing? Do you have the option to become easily qualified as a “competent person”? Also, what Accreditation status does the company you are dealing with have?

If any of these questions raise any doubts, then you should consider whether the Report produced gives you peace of mind if in the event a subsequent claim is made against you, that you would not be liable for a massive payout.

Also, you have a legal responsibility to ensure you conduct your undertaking in such a way that your tenant(s) are not exposed to Health & Safety risks. Therefore, you should ask yourself whether a tick box exercise provides a sufficient legal duty of care to your tenant(s).

Back to top of page