Is a legionella test a legal requirement?

Is a legionella test a legal requirement?

A legionella check itself isn’t yet a legal requirement (never say never though, we’re seeing lots more new legislation coming our way as landlords)!

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However, as a landlord, you have a responsibility under the Landlord and Tenant Act 2004 to ensure that the water systems in your property are safe for a tenant, and with this in mind, making sure they are clear of any nasties like legionella. Legionella is a particularly unpleasant bacteria that if inhaled, can cause Legionnaire’s disease, a pneumonia-type on infection that can be fatal – not something you really want to hang round your showerhead if you can help it!

The bacteria can be found in hot and cold-water systems, and love temperatures between 20 – 45°C. Whilst it can survive lower temps, the little blighters should be killed off at any temperatures of 60°C or above – which is great news, as they are easy to zap with a quick blast of steaming hot water. 

Managing the process

Considering they potentially fatal consequences of not managing legionella properly, it may seem unusual that there isn’t more legislation governing the management of this process. However, preventing these bugs can actually very simple. 

Although there are plenty of companies offering legionella testing, if you have ready access to your property, you can carry out the assessment for legionella simply yourself. In most residential properties, where the water system has been in regular use, there should be little risk but it is simple to check. 

How to check for legionella ? 

There are some simple checks you can carry out to police your pipework, and easily check for any lurking bacteria that shouldn’t be there. There’s no fancy equipment required either, just a thermometer! If your property has been empty a while, it would be wise to wear a protective face mask (most of us have one or two of those knocking about!) as you don’t want to risk inhaling any potentially infected droplets yourself. 

You should:

  • Clean all taps and shower heads and run them at full temperature for 10-15 minutes. Use your thermometer to check that the top temperature is above 60°C (average is between 60°C and 65°C, hot enough to kill the bacteria, but not hot enough to scald)
  • Check any water tanks for debris, and make sure they are well covered
  • Check the temperature of water being stored in tanks. If it is within the 20-45°C it could pose a risk
  • Remove any unnecessary lengths of pipework. If water can pool and sit, it can stagnate, and bacteria can grow
  • Run any water supplied appliances on a full cycle (washing machine, dishwasher etc)
  • Bring water heaters up to temperature and run for a while
  • If the property has air conditioning, ensure it has been properly serviced

What if you find legionella?

If you identify a risk, the most effective way to eradicate is to treat the water in the system to kill the bacteria. 

This is most effectively done with chemical treatments, and in this instance, it IS a good idea to call in the professionals. You don’t want to do anything to your water systems that could cause more harm than good!

Maintenance 

To ensure that the problem doesn’t arise again, encouraging your tenants to keep the water systems flowing, using all the water sources in the property. This will help prevent build-up of water in the system and prevent the bugs from getting hold. 

In periods when the property is vacant, try to ensure you pop in regularly and give the taps and showers a good blast, keeping the water moving around the property and everything flowing. 

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