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Legionella checks: what are they and who can make them?

Posted 22/05/2022 by Your Move
Categories: Landlords, Lettings
Person opening door with a key

As a landlord, you have an obligation to protect your tenants. And under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (2002), you have a specific legal responsibility to keep your rented property safe and free from health hazards.

One of the potential hazards in any property is legionella – but what exactly is it and what do you need to do minimise the risk to your tenants?

What is legionella?

Legionella is a bacteria that can form in water when:

  1. the temperature is between 20 and 45 degrees Celsius, and
  2. certain nutrients are present, e.g. sludge, scale and rust.

It can form in any kind of hot or cold water systems, including water tanks and air conditioning units. If the bacteria is then inhaled via water droplets, it can cause Legionnaire’s disease, a type of pneumonia that can be fatal if it’s left untreated.

What are a landlord’s legal obligations around legionella checks?

According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE): “The practical and proportionate application of health and 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 tenants, this does not require an in-depth, detailed assessment.” 

In reality, if your property is occupied and the water system is in regular use, the chance of legionella bacteria forming is very low, so regular checks are unnecessary. If your rental has a combination boiler and the showers are electric, the risk is even lower because water isn’t being stored.

What does the legionella risk assessment and check involve?

The most important check to make is the temperature of the hot and cold water by holding a thermometer under a running tap:

  • Hot tap – after one minute, the thermometer should register a minimum of 50 degrees Celsius
  • Cold tap – after two minutes, the thermometer should register a maximum of 20 degrees Celsius

For water heaters, a surface temperature probe can be used to check the outgoing water, which should be at least 60 degrees Celsius.

As well as recording water temperatures, the assessment should also include:

  • A description of the hot and cold water systems
  • Confirmation that the cold water tank is free from scale and rust, etc. and the lid is secure
  • Whether there are any water outlets that are used less than once a week – such as guest bathrooms
  • The location of all showers
  • Confirmation that the property is not left unoccupied for extended periods of time

Who can make the checks and carry out the risk assessment?

If you’re happy to, you can carry out the legionella risk assessment and checks yourself, or we can organise this for you - more information about Legionella can be found on our blog here.

A professional assessment can cost anything from £50 to £200, depending on the size of property, and if you have a fully managed letting service your agent may have access to preferential rates.

Is there a legionella safety certificate?

There’s no formal certificate, but you (or we) should retain a written record of the assessment and temperature checks.

5 key steps to minimise the risk of legionella bacteria forming:

  • If the property is unoccupied, run the hot and cold taps and flush the toilets once a week
  • Have any pipework that’s no longer in use removed
  • Ensure hot water is stored at 60°C
  • Check the water temperature during property inspections
  • Advise your tenants to regularly clean and disinfect showerheads

If we manage your rental property, we can arrange for a legionella assessment to be done on your behalf. But if you have any questions or you currently self-manage and you’d like to discuss our Fully Managed service, just get in touch with your local Your Move branch and chat to one of the team.

For further information on legionella, visit the Health & Safety Executive website.

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