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 20°C and 45°C degrees. If ingested or inhaled, water containing Legionella will lead to Legionella Disease or legionellosis – an infectious and sometimes fatal 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 20°C and 45°C degrees
- Water droplets or aerosols produced by whirlpool baths or shower-heads
- Mist and spray dispersed into the air
- Rust, scale, sludge and biofilm that “feed” the bacteria
- Properties that are left empty for a long period of time
The risk of Legionella is particularly low in properties with combi boilers, as the system keeps the water moving – giving the bacteria little chance to develop.
However, homes with open water tanks (usually older buildings) have a substantially higher risk of Legionella, as the water is more likely to be left to stagnate.
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 usually last between 2 to 10 days and can be treated with antibiotics if identified soon enough. Some people are particularly vulnerable to the risks of Legionella, including older people, those with lung issues and poor immune function.
Are landlords legally required to carry out a Legionella risk assessment?
There is a legal duty for landlords to assess and control the risk of exposure to legionella bacteria, but they are not required to conduct a professional assessment or test.
Whilst testing is part of a professional Legionella risk assessment, Health and safety law does not require landlords to test their water systems and produce or obtain ‘Legionnaires testing certificate’.
Landlords are not legally required to produce a formal certificate in the same way they are expected to have an EICR, EPC or Gas Safety Record.
However, landlords do have a more general legal duty of care to protect the health and safety of their tenants – a part of which is to ensure their property’s water is safe to drink and use.
To do this, landlords can carry out a Legionella assessment. A professional risk assessment is not a formal legal requirement, however, it’s a good way to ensure your water supply is safe.
It is also strongly recommended in the government’s How to Let guide.
Target Property can help you if you are having difficulty understanding the rules.