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Buy to let landlords and legionella – what the law says

1 December 2015

Some letting agents are sending letters to buy to let landlords urging them to pay for expensive and unnecessary tests for legionella disease.

The law clearly states landlords must make sure tenants are protected from health and safety hazards but does not call for them to have a certificate to show that a test was carried out.

Instead a simple DIY assessment covers all legal requirements.

Other legislation also obliges landlords to safeguard tenants from biological hazards such as legionella and since 2001; the law has also required landlords to carry out a risk assessment for the disease as well.

In most cases, the actions landlords need to take are simple and straightforward so compliance does not need to be burdensome or costly,” says the government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

DIY landlord legionella tests

“Most landlords can assess the risk themselves and do not need to be professionally trained or accredited; but if they do not feel competent, or inclined to do so, they can arrange for someone who is to do it on their behalf.”

The HSE says a typical low legionella risk property is where:

• A home has a domestic water system

• Daily water usage is inevitable and enough to turn over the system

• Cold water is fed from the mains and not stored in tanks

• Hot water is fed from instantaneous heaters or low volume water heaters at 50 centigrade or more

• The water outlets are toilets and wash hand basins

“A simple assessment by a landlord may show that there are no real risks and the property is properly managed and no further action is needed.

It is important to review the assessment in case anything changes in the system,” says HSE guidance.

“The most reliable way of ensuring the risk of exposure to legionella is minimised is to keep the hot water hot, cold water cold and keep it moving.

No need to keep records of legionella tests

“The risk is further lowered where instantaneous water heaters such as combi boilers and electric showers are installed because there is no water storage.”

The HSE also suggests landlords should flush the water system prior to letting a buy to let, remove any redundant pipework, fit lids to water tanks and make sure hot water is stored at 60 centigrade or more.

If a buy to let is empty for a few weeks, the HSE suggest flushing or draining the water system.

The HSE also says landlords do not have to keep records of any legionella assessment in a buy to let property, but may wish to do so for their own purposes.

Find out more about the law and legionella tests for landlords