Landlord faq

Does a Landlord need a Legionella Risk Assessment and other FAQ.

In this article we will try and answer some frequently asked questions. Asked by Landlords about Legionella, the bacterium that is the causative organism of Legionnaires disease. The questions most often asked are:

  • What is Legionnaires Disease and what is legionella?

  • When was Legionella discovered and can Legionnaires disease be cured?

  • Is a legionella risk assessment a legal requirement for landlords and is it mandatory?

  • Do landlords need a legionella risk assessment?

  • How to do a Legionella risk assessment?

History of Legionnaires Disease

Let's start with the history of Legionnaires disease. Legionnaires’ Disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia caused by legionellae bacteria colonising in the lungs. 

The name, legionnaires disease, comes from the first identified outbreak. In 1976 during a conference of the American Legion held at the Bellevue Stratford Hotel, Pennsylvania, USA. 221 of the attendees fell ill with a pneumonia like disease and 34 subsequently died.

Legionella / legionellae (plural) are rod shaped bacteria belong to the family legionellaceae. There are over 40 identified species of legionella bacteria. Legionellosis is the collective name given to the pneumonia-like illness caused by legionella bacteria. 

In 2010, the NHS reported that there were 359 reported cases of legionnaires’ disease and 38 deaths in England and Wales. It is thought 116 of these infections occurred while the affected person was travelling abroad.

Legionella Pneumophila is the species of legionella bacteria found in the environment associated with legionnaires' disease. The name pneumophila basically means "lung loving".

People usually catch legionnaires' disease by inhaling water droplets (aerosols) containing legionellae bacteria. Aerosols can be formed by running a shower, turning on taps, or from systems such as spa pools and cooling towers.

The symptoms of legionnaires' disease are like flu and not everybody exposed to legionella will become ill. The illness can be treated successfully with antibiotics such as erythromycin, but approximately 10 - 15% of cases result in death.

More information can be found in this HSE video.

  • Is a legionella risk assessment a legal requirement for landlords and is it mandatory?

  • Do landlords need a legionella risk assessment?

  • How to do a Legionella risk assessment?

The Health and Safety Executive have published L8, the Approved Code of Practice and Guidance for Control of Legionella Bacteria in Water systems. The 'L' means it has legal status as approved by the Secretary of State.

The book is for dutyholders, which includes employers and those with responsibilities for the control of premises such as a landlord. A landlord to comply with their legal duty must:

  • Identify and assess sources of risk - a risk assessment.
  • If appropriate, prepare a written scheme for preventing or controlling the risk.
  • Implement, manage and monitor precautions.
  • Keep records of the precautions.
  • Appoint a competent person with sufficient authority and knowledge of the installation to help take the measures needed to comply with the law.

This can appear very complicated and may make every residential property landlord believe, that to comply with their legal responsibilities under health and safety legislation, they need the services of an 'expert'. This is not necessarily so.

It is a legal requirement (mandatory) that the landlord carries out a risk assessment of the property that assesses the risk of exposure to legionella. The risk assessment must consider the domestic hot and cold water systems, water tanks, water heaters and the water temperature.

To carry out a legionella risk assessment a landlord must have an awareness of what legionella is, and what systems are hazardous and which are low risk. Legionella awareness training is a good starting point for any landlord.

Online Legionella Awareness Course

After undertaking Legionella awareness training (online courses are available from just £10) then a simple risk assessment can be carried out. The course will cover low risk systems such as combi boilers, point of use water heaters and domestic sized water storage tanks. Therefore the assessment will probably show a minimal risk.

If the risk assessment shows that the risk is minimal then health and safety law does not require any further action. The risk assessment should be filed and checked when any changes to the water systems are made.

To summarise, a landlord has a legal duty to carry out a legionella risk assessment of their property. An online legionella awareness course will enable anybody to carry out a basic risk assessment. If the assessment shows minimal risk then there is no need to assess and control and prepare written schemes or the like. The assessment should just be kept and reviewed if any changes to the water systems are made.

Legionnaires Disease Landlords Risk Assessment Form

This is quite a large document but it contains everything you need to know to carry out a simple, step by step legionnaires disease risk assessment on a rented property. Just click the link to download your:

Free legionnaires disease landlords risk assessment template and guidance.

  • Risk Assessment