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What is Legionella

Legionella is hazardous bacteria that can be found in water. In a residential property, Legionella can grow in water stored at temperatures between 20c and 45cdegrees. If ingested or inhaled, water containing legionella will lead to legionnaires’ disease (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/legionnaires-disease/) or legionellosis – an infectious and sometimes form of pneumonia.

Hot and cold-water systems are an ideal environment for legionella to grow in. The risk of contamination is particularly higher in:

*Water tanks and systems in which water is stagnant and/or recirculated

*Temperatures between 20c and 45c degrees

*Water droplets or aerosols produced by whirlpool baths or showerheads

*Mist and spry dispersed into the air

*Rust, scale, sludge and biofilm the “feed” the bacteria

*Properties that are left empty for long period of time

What are the risks of Legionella and Legionnaires; disease?

Legionnaires’ disease can be very serious. If infected, you or your tenant will be subject to:

*High fevers



*Shortness of breath


The Symptoms of legionnaires’ disease (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/legionnaires-disease/) usually last between 2 to 10 days and can be treated with antibiotics if identified soon enough. Some people are particularly vulnerable to the risk of Legionella, including older people, those with lung issues and poor immune function.

Are Landlords legally required to carry out a Legionella risk assessment?

Under the Health and Safely at work act 1974, landlords have a legal duty of care to protect Health and Safety of their tenant. As part of this responsibility is to ensure that the water provided at your rental property is safe to drink and use.

Landlords in Scotland must ensure a risk assessment has been carried out to determine the level of risk if any of water in the rental property becoming contaminated with Legionella. The Legionella risk assessment can be carried out by anyone competent to do so, which could be the landlord.

Most rented properties will be low risk, but it is a requirement for landlords to ensure that the risk of exposure to tenants and visitors by Legionella is properly assessed and controlled. Landlords are not necessarily required to record the findings of the assessment (this is only a statutory duty for employers where there are five or more employees), but they may find it prudent to keep a record of what has been done for their own purposes.

What does a Landlord Legionella risk assessment involve?

A Legionella risk assessment (https://www.lettingaproperty.com/landlord-services~landlord-certificates) will generally cover all water systems in your rental property. The assessment itself will involve:

*identifying potential hazards and the level of risk posed

*identifying who is at risk

*Testing the water system for Legionella

*putting adequate control measures in place to minimise the risk

*recording the findings of the assessment

*reviewing the assessment as needed

A Legionella risk assessment should be carried out by someone with competent understanding of the hazard of Legionella

Who can assess the risk?

In most cases, the actions landlords need to take are simple and straightforward so compliance does not need to be burdensome or costly.  Most landlords can assess the risk themselves (or have a competent person do so on their behalf) and do not need to be professionally trained or accredited; but if they do not feel competent, or inclined to do so, they can arrange for someone who is to do it on their behalf.

Once you have completed your risk assessment you may decide that the risks are insignificant. If you do, you need take no further action other than to review the assessment regularly in case anything changes in your system.

How Can Landlords Minimise the risks of Legionella?

For most domestic hot and cold-water systems, temperature is the most reliable way of ensuring the risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria is minimised i.e. keep the hot water hot, cold water cold and keep it moving.

Landlords should be aware that the risk of Legionella may increase if the property is unoccupied even for a short time and take appropriate action to maintain a degree of waste flow to minimise the chances of stagnation.

To further help reduce the risk of legionella, the Health and Safety Executive (https://www.hse.gov.uk/index.htm) have recommend some simple control measures, including:

*Flushing out the water system before the property is let (and once a week during void periods). Flushing means running all taps and showers for a minimum of two minutes, plus flushing all the toilets. For longer periods the landlord should consider draining the system.  

*Ensuring systems and tanks are soundly and tightly fit to avoid debris getting in

*Setting control parameters, such as setting the temperature of the hot water cylinder to ensure hot water is stored at 60c degrees

*Removing any faulty or redundant pipework

The risk is further lowered where instantaneous water heaters (for example combi boilers and electric showers) are installed because there is no water storage.

The above controls are the Landlord’s responsibility, but tenants should be notified of any measures in place and be advised to:

*Notify the Landlord if there are problems with the water system (Such as the hot water not working.)

*Not adjust set temperature parameters

*Regularly clean and disinfect showerheads

How long does a Legionella risk assessment take?

The duration of a professional Legionella risk assessment varies from property to property.

Your assessor will need to take a digital temperature reading of every hot and cold tap in the property and reading of outlet pipes from water tanks.

They will also visually inspect every tap and showerhead, report on redundant pipework and flexible hoses and access any water tanks in the loft. If the property has a garden with an exterior tap, it must be tested for limescale (https://www.lettingaproperty.com/landlord/blog/21-landlord-hacks/) and outdoor hoses will be inspected as well.

So, a one-bed flat with one bathroom and a combi boiler would take approximately 20 minutes to inspect, whilst a three-bed house with two bathrooms, utility room, a garden and a hot and cold tank would take around an hour to complete.