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Landlords and Legionnaires: how to protect your tenants!

April 24, 2014Tags: Landlords | lettings | Legionnaires disease

When you buy a property to let or rent your own home, probably the last thing on your mind is to check whether there is a chance of your tenants getting sick through Legionnaires disease. Normally we only hear about incidences in hospitals or places where there are lots of people in residence.

However, you might not know that as a landlord, you have a duty of care to your tenants to make sure your water supply is working properly. 

What is Legionella?

This is an illness a bit like pneumonia. It's relatively rare, especially in residential homes, but we need to take care as if it does develop, then it can be fatal. People catch the illness from hot and cold water heating systems including storage tanks which aren't functioning properly or have been stagnant for some time. The result is bacteria can develop and lead to a tenant inhaling infected small droplets of water contained in the air.

What checks can you carry out?

You can carry out your own risk assessment as long as you are considered to be a 'competent person'. From the HSE's perspective, this means you need to know about the sources of legionella, what precautions to take and how to maintain and control systems to minimise the risk. The Health and Safety Executive has a free document you can download which explains this in more detail.

You need to identify the risks so you can do what's required to prevent Legionnaires disease developing. Main things to check will be showers, water tanks and hot water systems. The other thing to bear in mind is identifying if you have a vulnerable tenant. According to the Health and Safety Executive some tenants are more susceptible to catching Legionnaires' disease than others. People considered vulnerable are over the age of 45, smokers or heavy drinkers, or those suffering from respiratory or kidney disease or immune system problems.

Example of checks include:

1. Sources of contamination such as a water tank, showers

2. Breakdowns which can allow the bacteria to develop and cause a problem when restarted

3. Use of disinfection

What can you do?

The likelihood of this happening in your property is pretty small, however, it can be quite devastating if it does. So, when buying any heating system, or things like showers, it's worth asking the manufacturer and plumber or engineer how they can ensure bacteria doesn't develop. Another time to be cautious is if the heating system has broken down and it takes a while to fix it or if you have been renovating a property, so always have checks done in these circumstances.

Finally, if you ever come across your tenant with flu like symptoms: so coughs and colds, headaches and muscle pain. In severe cases it may lead to mental confusion.

What can Your Move do for you?

If we are managing your property, this is the kind of thing we are aware of, so we take it into account when letting your property and organise any changes to your heating and water systems.

If you manage the property yourself and need any help, please feel free to contact us for guidance. Call 0845 450 5507^ or email Landlords@YourMove.co.uk