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Written by rosalind renshaw

A new duty has fallen on letting agents and landlords – to carry out risk assessments for legionnaire’s disease, and if necessary, take action.

The Health and Safety Executive has released a revised Approved Code of Practice: Legionaires’ disease: The control of legionella bacteria in water systems.

It underlines legal requirements for landlords and managing agents to ensure that the risk from exposure to legionella from all water systems in residential rental premises is controlled.

Whose responsibility it will be – ie, agent or landlord – can be answered by a simple question: if a tap breaks or leaks, who is responsible for getting it repaired?

The new guidance insists that landlords and agents must keep records for at least five years. They must give details on all aspects of risk assessment control.

To comply with the law, landlords and agents need to be aware that legionella bacteria can multiply in hot or cold water systems and storage tanks, and be spread via showers and taps. Risk assessments must identify and assess potential sources of exposure, and steps take to prevent or control any risk that is identified.

Risk assessments can normally be carried out by agents or landlords, and include assessing whether conditions are right for bacteria to flourish – in water tempteratures between 20C and 45C. Areas of stagnant water, infrequently used outlets, debris in the system, and thermostatic mixing valves should all be inspected.

However, the part of the risk assessment likely to cause most problem is whether any particular tenants, such as older people or those already ill, might be vulnerable to infection.

Landlords and agents will also have to balance one set of advice – to raise the temperature of warm water to control legionella – against the risk of possible burns and scalding.

Steps taken to control the threat of legionella include disinfecting the system, ensuring no water can stagnate anyway, insulating pipework, and keeping water cisterns covered and free of debris.

Tenants should also be advised about risks, and told to take precautions such as flushing through showers they rarely use.

Anyone with concerns can contact their local HSE office of environmental health department.


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    We have carried out nearly 1000 of these risk assessments in the last 2 months. We have created an app so if you have trained staff you can do them too. You should let your landlords know of their responsibility in this area. If they do not want it doing then make sure they send you something saying so. If they want it doing then offer them the service.
    One of our clients who manages 300 properties has instructed 185 jobs. He has not had any issues with landlords and he has discharged his liabilities in this area. He does not want to carry the can on the landlords behalf.

    • 25 June 2013 16:12 PM
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    Hi all,

    Its not as bad as it all seems and with a small system most will only need a risk assessment, There is no high price training courses as it can all be done in house on return of the risk assessments. anyone has any questions or needs help let me know.

    Leigh Regin
    3C Environmental Technology

    • 16 April 2012 13:00 PM
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    As someone who works as a consultant in the Legionella area it is interesting to read these comments - some eminently sensible and some completely the opposite. Without putting a sales hat on there are a number of things that need to be thought about. One is that the likely number of cases in the UK, and elsewhere in the world, is most likely to be significantly under reported. The other is, in response to one of the comments above, that you cannot detect legionella with a physical inspection and risk assessment, but what you can do is identify reasonably simple procedures which will significantly reduce a tenant's risk. In closing, it is easy to be flippant and indeed dismissive about this and I understand that response. Please take it from me, that when you are in a difficult legal spot, after someone has been sick, or worse, then the flippancy does seem very wide of the mark.

    • 28 March 2012 11:48 AM
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    Howard, It is important to understand that this is new advice, albeit updated from when it was first published in May 2003. Agents should not be encouraged to think there is nothing new here.

    It has been updated, because the duty has changed. It will now affect most agents for the first time. That is because it has removed the 300 litre limit for hot and cold water services. Its removal means that ALL premises with a water system are now within the scope of the new guidance.

    • 27 March 2012 16:04 PM
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    It has recently been mentioned in ARLA news - 'Important Changes to HSE Legislation on Control of Legionnaires Disease' (21-03-2012).


    Have checked with our local EHO in Huntingdon and she says it is old news and that she doesn't even know who is supposed to police it! 13 cases since 2000 of which under 2 ended in death (thats one is'nt it?).

    Not exactly an epidemic!

    Hopefully ARLA can clarify what is going on.

    • 27 March 2012 15:55 PM
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    This was announced in a publication issued by the HSE back in May 2003, so not exactly new!

    • 27 March 2012 14:05 PM
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    Sudden thought

    Isn't some of this in conflict with HHSRS?

    For example raising the water temperature which as the item says could then become a burns risk?

    • 27 March 2012 13:47 PM
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    HSE = Have Safe Employment.

    • 27 March 2012 13:03 PM
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    We've already had a company call us twice today trying to flog us some training based on this guidance.

    • 27 March 2012 12:53 PM
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    This must be April Fools Day come early surely?? Maybe we should also arrange to steam clean all our properties weekly too just to be absolutely sure there are no germs lurking....

    • 27 March 2012 11:32 AM
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    Don’t be so flippant you guys. This is a very serious problem. Just after the war my mum was stationed in North Africa and she was mixing with a lot of French soldiers and contracted a disease from a Legionnaire. It was very nasty and took a lot of penicillin to shift it.

    • 27 March 2012 10:19 AM
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    @ Hert Agent

    You only keep things for 6 years in case of litigation and Statute of Limitations. Gas safety records actually only have to be kept two years after expiry.

    Mention is made of blocks legionnaire's was an agents responsibility in terms of block management already wasn't it? So how do they manage to discharge their responsibilities in this respect?

    • 27 March 2012 10:17 AM
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    I think its time for me to retire now before the whole industry descends into a farce; how many more ridiculous moves like this can these faceless bureaucrats heap on top of the industry.

    • 27 March 2012 09:17 AM
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    I'm surprised you didn't mention the HSE's other instructions, especially the HMO law that says all tenants must be checked for HIV to prevent the spread of AIDs to other residents. And what about the quarantine period for all Tenants arriving from Africa, to contain E-coli and Ebola etc. This really is not enough information Ros.

    • 27 March 2012 08:24 AM
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    Since when could Legionella be detected by inspection??

    Reasonably simple tho' to set or advise tenants to set hot water tanks at 60 degrees which should knock the little blighter on the head! I see yet another standard letter coming along...

    • 27 March 2012 08:07 AM
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    I have a pigeon problem in one block but there is no legislation for these flying s**t machines.

    I have said for years the HSE should go. They are supposed to be having their powers reduced but then some moron thinks up another scam and they have the audacity to try and load this on to us agents and landlords with no qualifications.

    I think the HSE would have something to say about this practice of passing the buck to non qualified contractors.

    Anyone know a legionella expert?

    • 27 March 2012 08:03 AM
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    sorry SHE should be HSE and CPawae is CP12. too early :)

    • 27 March 2012 07:55 AM
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    Oh dear god! Who on earth thinks up this nonsense???
    In all honesty how many agents will pay a blind bit of notice to this?
    Maybe SHE should have spent a little time reading Sect 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act where it states what the landlord is responsablwe for and as for who will be liable for a broken tap! Depends who broke it! If the tenant breaks a tap and refuses to fix it, is the tenant then liable if he contracts legionella?
    And as for records must be kept for 5yrs again 'really??' We have to keep all documentation on a tenancy for 6yrs legally.
    HSE please look at the facts and implications before you have ' a really good idea". This is open to so much questioning it isn't worth the effort.
    How many residential tenants in houses not Blocks of flats (as this would be Block management responsability) have died from legionella in say the last 10yrs?
    How can you determine if the letting agent is competent enough to correctly check whether there is a risk??? Will we all have to go on a training course? Which will cost us ££££ then as new water systems are introduced to the market will we need a refresher course each year? I may as well train as a Gas safe Engineer that way I can take a look at the CPawae while I'm at it Absolute rubbish! Rant over Thank you :)

    • 27 March 2012 07:51 AM
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