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What is a legionella risk assessment and do I need one for my rental property?

All properties let from October 2015 should have a legionella risk assessment. This news has probably struck horror in the hearts of conscientious and responsible landlords. So not only do they have to take responsibility for gas and electrical safety, furnishing fire regulations,  carbon monoxide safety , smoke alarms, HHSRS, risk assessments, lease compliance and EPCs, a new piece of paper is required.

Some suppliers have jumped on this bandwagon and are offering risk assessment surveys – the good news is that in the vast majority of cases the risk assessment can be carried out by the landlord or agent themselves.

Legionella is a very rare (but very serious) condition which can prove fatal. It is caused by bacteria breeding in stored water. In order for the bacteria to thrive the water needs to be between 25-40 degrees and the water supply used infrequently. ‘Prime suspects’ for such bacteria are water tanks which are not kept heated, dead legs (pipes that have been capped off but still contain water or sludge), long runs of pipe-work carrying hot water to a tap, and shower heads.

Where a property has a combi-boiler and modern plumbing then the risk assessment is a relatively straightforward task and could be completed during a simple site visit (excellent examples are provide on the RLA web site (www.rla.org.uk)).

If the property has a hot water tank then landlords/agents should make sure that the water is heated to a minimum of 60 degrees and it is advisable to run water through the system and shower heads if the property has been empty for more than a week. Again this risk assessment can probably be carried out by the landlord or agent.

However if your property has an older heating system, an immersion tank for hot water and/or unknown piping under the floor it would be wise to employ the services of a specialist assessor.

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