How can landlords keep their tenants safe?

15th November 2016

Landlords in the UK have a duty of care to ensure that the properties they let out are safe and free from health hazards, but, despite this, new figures from housing charity Shelter suggest that four in ten British Homes aren’t up to standard.

In an attempt to tackle the problem of bad landlords giving the private rented sector a bad name, the Welsh Government has introduced the Rent Smart Scheme, which will require all Welsh landlords to be registered and licensed before 23 November.  In order to obtain a licence, landlords must complete training based around their legal responsibilities and obligations.  This type of training will hopefully raise the standard of Welsh rental properties, making them safer for tenants and mitigating risks for landlords.

Most landlords are aware of their responsibilities surrounding gas, carbon monoxide and electrical safety – but what about water?  A healthy water system is essential to the safe rental of a property, particularly when houses can be left unused for periods of time, potentially creating breeding grounds for Legionella bacteria.

Legionella risk assessment

Under health and safety legislation, landlords are required to perform a risk assessment for Legionnaire’s Disease on rental properties.  They can do this themselves if they are familiar with the property’s water systems and are competent to do so, or alternatively they can ask someone with the necessary skills to carry out the risk assessment on their behalf.

The Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) L8, Legionnaires’ disease: The control of bacteria in water systems, gives guidance about the requirements of the risk assessment and the specific health and safety laws that apply.

The risk assessment should cover:

  • The details of the competent person carrying out the risk assessment
  • A description of the water system
  • Any potential risk sources
  • Any risk controls currently in place
  • Monitoring, inspection and maintenance procedures and records
  • Date for reassessment

Risk management

As well as the risk assessment, the landlord’s approach to water safety can keep tenants safe from potential dangers:

  • Flush out the system before letting a property
  • Ensure water systems are well maintained to avoid debris entering the system
  • Make sure any stored water is at a safe temperature
  • Remove redundant pipework.

If the property is left vacant

Legionella can breed when water is left to stagnate, so if properties are vacant for long periods, for example student accommodation over the summer holidays, then additional action should be considered.  To avoid stagnation, hot and cold water systems should be used at least once a week.  If this is not practical then systems can be flushed or drained to further minimise risks.

Tenants ‘in-the-know’

Landlords should make sure tenants are informed of water hygiene risks, so that they can take steps towards the maintenance of the system.  Tenants should:

  • Be aware of the specific water temperature controls and not adjust them
  • Regularly clean and disinfect showerheads
  • Keep the landlord informed of any irregularities so that action can be taken.

Are you a landlord?  We can help assess legionella risk and assist in the ongoing maintenance of your water system. Visit our water treatment section for more information, or contact us.