Landlords & Legionella Risk Assessment: 2022 Guide + FREE Risk Assessment Template

Landlords are legally obligated to conduct Legionella risk assessments on their rental properties, but that doesn’t mean they have to pay for it.

Many landlords are being led astray by letting agents who have misinterpreted the government guidelines.

Our up-to-date guide on landlords and Legionella risk assessment aims to clear up confusion, advise how landlords can meet their legal obligations and help landlords feel confident about testing for Legionella in their rental properties.

Firstly, what is Legionella?

Legionella bacteria is present in natural water sources. Legionella can infiltrate manmade water systems and once stored in your hot or cold water tank is at constant risk of breeding. This is when the bacteria are hazardous to humans.

Temperature is the most important factor when considering how to avoid excess amounts of legionella:

· Below 20°C – bacteria dormant

· Above 60°C – Legionella bacteria can’t survive

· Between 20°C and 45°C – Legionella bacteria begins to breed

In many cases, it is difficult to maintain a constant water tank temperature which can increase the risk of tenants contracting Legionnaire’s from your rental property.

What is Legionnaire’s Disease?

Legionnaire’s disease is severe form of pneumonia. It’s contracted by inhaling water droplets contaminated with Legionella bacteria.

Legionnaire’s disease is frequently misdiagnosed because early symptoms resemble the flu or a cold.

Groups at particular risk of Legionnaire’s disease are:

  • People over 45 years old
  • Those with chronic respiratory or kidney disease
  • Heavy smokers and drinkers
  • People with lung disease, heart disease and diabetes
  • Individuals with compromised immune systems

Legionnaires Disease and Rental Properties

Legionnaire’s disease can be fatal. For this reason it’s the law in Scotland that landlords risk assess their rental property’s water system to mitigate risk to tenants.

Unhygienic or poorly fitted water tanks help the spread of Legionella, but simple inactivity is also an issue. If your rental property has been dormant between tenants, it’s a good idea to check that Legionella bacteria hasn’t grown in stagnant water.

Landlords can mitigate the risk of tenants contracting Legionnaire’s in their rental property by learning about and fulfilling their legal obligations.

Landlords and Legionella

Landlords’ Legionella obligations are clearly defined by law. The Health and Safety Executive defines landlords as:

“anyone who rents out a property they own under a lease or a licence that is shorter than seven years.”

This includes:

  • local authorities
  • housing associations
  • private sector landlords
  • housing co-operative
  • hostels

Landlords who rent property (or even a room within your own home) have legal responsibilities to ensure the health and safety of tenants by keeping the property safe and free from health hazards, including exposure to Legionella bacteria.

Is a Legionella risk assessment a legal requirement for landlords?

As a landlord you are legally required to complete a Legionella risk assessment.

However, you do not need to test your water or pay for a professional risk assessment. Domestic Legionella Risk Assessments are a legal requirement in Scotland but remember that the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) doesn’t recognise a “Legionnaire’s testing certificate”, nor is it required by law.

Knowing your legal duty as a landlord will help you avoid paying for unnecessary tests and certificates. HSE’s website clears up common misconceptions about landlords’ rights and responsibilities. The requirements under Health & Safety at work act 1974 outline a landlord’s legal obligations around Legionella risk assessments and HSE’s Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) L8 & HSG274 provides further compliance guidelines for legionella control.

Legionella requirements for landlords: what you must do

While a professional Legionella risk assessment is not a formal legal requirement, it’s often the best way to ensure your water is safe to drink.

A professional risk assessment will cover all water systems in your rental property.

The process usually involves:

  • Identifying potential hazards and the level of risk posed
  • Identifying who is at risk
  • Testing the water system for Legionella (although this is not a legal requirement)
  • Putting any necessary control measures in place to minimise the risk
  • Recording the findings of the assessment
  • Reviewing the assessment as needed
  • A report of the assessment’s findings and any next steps

The law states that Legionella risk assessments must be conducted by a competent person. This could be a landlord, but if you feel unsure what to look for it’s best to contact a professional.

You should check that your Legionella risk assessors are:

How often should landlords conduct a Legionella risk assessment?

It is recommended that landlords conduct a Legionella risk assessment:

  • Every 2 years
  • Before a new tenancy begins
  • When there are significant changes or upgrades to your water systems

How long does a professional Legionella risk assessment take?

The duration of a professional Legionella risk assessment varies according to the size of your rental property. A one-bed flat may take as little as 20 minutes while bigger properties can take around an hour.

Your risk assessor needs to:

  • Check the temperature of every hot and cold tap in the property
  • Get a reading from your water tank’s outlet pipes
  • Inspect all taps and showerheads
  • Note redundant pipework and flexible hoses
  • Check loft/attic water tanks
  • Test exterior taps for limescale and inspect outdoor hoses

Landlord Legionella Risk Assessment Template

Competent landlords who want to conduct their own L8 Legionella Risk Assessment can download a free L8 template.

The template includes checklists to audit for Legionella control in your rental property’s water systems.

Legionella testing kit for landlords

Landlords can purchase testing kits to help them risk assess for Legionella in their rental properties.

DIY testing kits cost as little as £40 and can give you results in 25 minutes.

The law applies to landlords who rent Airbnbs as well as those renting single rooms within their own home. For these types of domestic properties with just one or two outlets, DIY Legionella test kits are a cost-effective option.

Minimising the risks of Legionella in your rental properties

Landlords can follow these simple steps to minimise their tenants’ exposure to Legionella:

  • Before a property is let flush out the water system to prevent Legionella bacteria breeding in stagnant water
  • Prevent debris polluting your water supply by ensuring your tank is tightly fit
  • Ensure hot water is stored at 60°C
  • Remove degraded or redundant pipework

It’s always advisable to communicate the measures you have in place to your tenants.

How can tenants protect themselves against Legionella?

Legionella control is the landlord’s responsibility. However, you can help by:

  • Letting your landlord know of any water problems immediately
  • Not adjusting the water system’s set temperatures
  • Regularly cleaning taps and showerheads

What other inspections and assessments do landlords need to carry out?

While a professional Legionella risk assessment is not a legal requirement, landlords are required by law to conduct the following:

  • Annual gas safety inspection
  • Electrical safety inspection every 5 years
  • Energy performance assessment to ensure your property has an energy performance rating of ‘E’ or above. You must also issue a copy of your EPC to your tenant
  • Before a new tenancy landlords must check all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are working on
  • Give your tenant a copy of the government’s How to Rent guide at the start of their tenancy

Ignoring the above inspection and failing to issue your tenant with correct documents means you could pay heavy fines and forfeit your right to evict tenants.

How can I book a Legionella risk assessment?

To arrange a professional, accredited landlord Legionella risk assessment click here.

Legionella Risk Assessment FAQs

What is Legionella?

Legionella is a form of bacteria commonly found in water systems such as water tanks, pipes and air conditioning units. Inhaling small droplets of water containing this bacterium can cause Legionnaires’ Disease, a potentially fatal pneumonia.

How do people get Legionnaires' disease?

People contract Legionnaires' disease by inhaling small droplets of water (aerosols), suspended in the air, containing the bacteria.

Is a Legionella risk assessment a legal requirement for landlords?

Yes, a Legionella risk assessment is a legal requirement for landlords. However, landlords are not legally bound to pay for a professional Legionella risk assessment or water testing.

How often do landlords have to test for Legionella?

Landlords should conduct a Legionella risk assessment every 2 years, at the start of a new tenancy or if any changes have been made to the water system.

Is Legionella testing a legal requirement in Scotland?

Water testing is part of a professional Legionella risk assessment, which is not a legal requirement. However, in Scotland it is the law that landlords conduct a Legionella risk assessment to protect their tenants from Legionnaire’s disease.

What is a landlord’s legal duty in terms of controlling Legionella?

As a landlord you are legally required to complete a Legionella risk assessment.
However, you do not need to test your water or pay for a professional risk assessment. Domestic Legionella Risk Assessments are a legal requirement in Scotland but remember that the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) doesn’t recognise a “Legionnaire’s testing certificate”, nor is it required by law.

What can a landlord expect a tenant to do to prevent legionella?

Ultimately, the responsibility for the prevention of Legionella lies with the landlord, not the tenant, but tenants should inform the landlord if the hot water system is not heating properly and inform the landlord if the cold-water system is not running cold.

What is the purpose of a Legionella Risk Assessment?

The purpose of the Risk Assessment is to identify any risks in your water system. The competent person undertaking the assessment should be able to establish whether there are any risks of exposure to legionella.
Landlords should be aware that the risk of Legionella may increase if the property is unoccupied even for a short time For full details of legal responsibilities and control measures landlords should visit the HSE website.

Can a landlord undertake the Risk Assessment?

The legislation states that the Risk Assessment must be carried out by a "competent person", who has the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage health and safety, including the control measures.
Landlords can carry out Legionella risk assessments if they believe they are competent to do so, or they can instruct a specialist contractor to carry out the work.

Where can I find out more about Legionella?

The Health and Safety executive’s guide can be found on their website:

Tags :
hse,landlords,landlords responsibilities,Legionella,property owners,Water Safety,water sampling,water tank maintenence,water testing
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