In England and Wales, Public Health England confirmed 359 cases of Legionnaires’ Disease, with 25 leading to death. The financial consequences to those held responsible for the infections were serious, but as a landlord, are you also in danger of breaking the law?
What is Legionella?
Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal type of pneumonia caused by the Legionella bacterium. It can spread in small airborne droplets of contaminated water which people inhale. These droplets can be produced by water outlets in the home, such as taps and showerheads. It can also be caught by drinking contaminated water. Legionella can cause coughs, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches and, in the worst cases, to death.
Any man-made water system can provide an environment in which Legionella bacteria can grow, with the right temperature and nutrient sources, such as rust, sludge, scale or biofilm). The more it can multiply, the greater the risk of exposure. For this reason, the water systems and outlets of a rented property need to be properly maintained and checked.
What does the law say?
If you are a landlord and rent a property or even a room within your home, you have a general legal responsibility under Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) to ensure the health of your tenant by preventing their exposure to health and safety hazards in your property. There is also specific guidance for Legionnaires’ disease:
- Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH): This refers to hazardous substances, including biological agents such as the Legionella bacterium. It requires the landlord to identify and assess the risk to others on their property and to implement any necessary measures to control risk.
- L8 Approved Code of Practice (3rd edition) (ACOP): Published in 2001 and updated in 2013, this guidance stipulates a duty for landlords to carry out a risk assessment on tenants’ exposure to Legionella.
The penalties of failing to carry out a legionella risk assessment
If the Health and Safety Executive can prove that you, as a landlord, did not take adequate steps to control the risk of Legionnaires’ Disease, you can be liable to up to two years in prison, and an unlimited fine or both.
In 2016, one well-known company was fined nearly 2 million pounds for failing to take adequate measures to prevent a Legionella outbreak. That’s not even mentioning the damage done to reputation, business profits and the potential for legal action by the injured person.
A legionella risk assessment from No Letting Go
As well as our comprehensive range of services to private landlords and letting agencies nationally, including inventory management, No Letting Go also offer legionella risk assessment visits.
All of our inspectors are City and Guilds qualified, and they will give you clear, concise and comprehensive reports that highlight any risks and explain any actions you need to take to meet your recommended safety requirements.
If you want the peace of mind knowing your property is safe from the risk of Legionnaires’ disease, then contact us today.