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Residential Rental Properties – a Landlord’s responsibilities

The law and you

The law is clear that if you are a landlord and rent out your property (or even a room within your own home) then you have legal responsibilities to ensure the health and safety of your tenant, by keeping the property safe and free from health hazards.

Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) makes provision for relevant health and safety legislation to apply to landlords, to ensure a duty of care is shown to their tenants’ with regard to their health and safety.

Landlords, under Section 53 of HSWA are regarded as being self-employed and tenants fall into the class of “other persons (not being his employees)”. If you rent out a property, you have legal responsibilities to ensure you conduct your undertaking in such a way that your tenant(s) are not exposed to health and safety risks.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) provides a framework of actions to control the risk from a range of hazardous substances, including biological agents (e.g. Legionella) - to identify and assess the risk, and implement any necessary measures to control any risk.

What you must do - Risk Assessment

Landlords of domestic rental properties have a duty to assess the risk from exposure to Legionella to ensure the safety of their tenants. However, this does not require an in-depth, detailed assessment. The risks from hot and cold water systems in most residential settings are generally considered to be low owing to regular water usage and turnover.

A simple assessment may show that there are no real risks and no further action is needed. It is important to review the assessment if anything changes to the design of the water system.

Who can assess the risk?

Most landlords can assess the risk themselves and do not need to be professionally trained or accredited, but if you do not feel competent, or inclined to do so, you can arrange for someone who is to do it on your behalf. If you wish to use an external company, make sure they are a member of the Legionella Control Association (LCA) and ask to see their accreditation documents.

Keeping a record of the assessment

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 it is prudent for you to keep a record of what has been done, for your own purposes and to support your landlords insurance.

What your tenant needs to know

Tenants should be advised of any control measures put in place that should be maintained e.g. not to adjust the temperature setting of the calorifier (hot water cylinder) if there is one at the property, to regularly clean showerheads and tenants should inform the landlord if the hot water is not heating properly or there are any other problems with the system so that appropriate action can be taken.

Where showers are installed, tenants should be advised to regularly clean and descale showerheads.

Additional actions for properties left vacant

It is important that water is not allowed to stagnate within the water system and so there should be careful management of properties left vacant for extended periods, e.g. between lettings. As a general principle, outlets on hot and cold water systems should be used at least once a week to maintain a degree of water flow and minimise the chances of stagnation. To manage the risks during non-occupancy, consideration should be given to implementing a suitable flushing regime or other measures such as draining the system if it is to remain vacant for long periods.

What happens if a tenant contracts Legionnaires' disease?

If a tenant were to contract Legionnaires’ disease from the water system in their home, the landlord may be liable to prosecution under HSWA, and would have to demonstrate to a court that they had fulfilled their legal duty, so it is important that they assess and control the risks.


Commercial Properties

Whether you are a landlord, managing agent or employer, if you are responsible for the control of the premises, you must comply with the requirements of the HSE’s ACOP on the Control of Legionella in Water Systems (L8). This means that you must minimise the risk of your tenants and staff coming into contact with the legionella bacteria and contracting Legionnaires’ Disease.

Who are ‘at risk’?

Not only the elderly are at risk of contracting the disease. Anyone who has a weakened immune system, due to health problems or deliberate suppression, following organ transplantation, for example, is at high risk. Also, people suffering from heart or lung problems, such as asthma, are very vulnerable.

You will probably not be aware if any of the people in a building fall in to the ‘at risk’ categories for contracting Legionnaires’ Disease. Thus, it is safer to assume that some do and test the water system for the presence of the legionella bacteria on a regular basis.

Depending upon the size and design of the premises, we can provide a testing kit from only £43.75 plus VAT.

Ring us now on Freephone 0800 320 2037
so we can take some details and arrange for a kit to be sent out.