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There has been a lot of confusion about domestic rented properties needing a Legionella Risk Assessment and if one is needed at all. In brief, all rented properties need a Legionella Risk Assessment. The confusion happened because of a misunderstanding around the requirements of the ACOP L8, the actions of a number of letting agents and Landlord groups.
In 2012 the 4th Edition of the ACOP L8 was released. Previously to the 4th edition there was an artificial 300 litre volume limit for hot & cold-water systems. This limit existed because it was felt that there was little to no risk of Legionella developing in smaller water systems.
The 4th edition of the ACOP L8 removed the artificial 300 litre limit and for the first time brought smaller domestic systems under the scope of the ACOP L8. This was done because research has shown that Legionella can exist and grow in smaller water systems. In support of the change the HSE released a document called "Essential Information for Providers of Residential Accomodation".
The requirements are simple. You need a Legionella Risk Assessment carried out and reviewed at least once every two years by someone who is competent to assess the level of risk posed by Legionella. As a result of the risk assessment further action including Legionella Testing may be required.
You need to update or review the risk assessment at least once every 2 years or if there is reason the believe the risk assessment is no longer valid.
You DO NOT need to test for Legionella every year unless the risk assessment has identified a need for testing.
You DO NOT need to produce a Legionella Test Certificate unless the risk assessment has identified a need for testing.
You DO NOT need to renew, review or carry out a new risk assessment every time there is a tenancy change.
The confusion has occurred because of several letting agents who wrote the landlords advising them that they have a legal requirement to test for Legionella. This has been an industry wide problem because of misinformation given to letting agents through their governing and training bodies. The way this information has been presented has led letting agents to believe a test certificate is needed in the same way a Gas Safe certificate is needed.
There is NO automatic or legal requirement to test for Legionella unless identified by the risk assessment.
In response landlord groups such as the NLA replied (through press releases etc.) that there is no need for landlords to do anything and that nothing has changed.
Again, this is not correct as there had been a documented change, domestic rented properties are now under the ACOP L8. However, landlord groups were addressing the claim that landlords need to test for Legionella and did not make it clear that a risk assessment is now required.
To carry out a Domestic Legionella Risk Assessment you need to be competent to assess the risk. This means that Landlords can carry out their own risk assessments if they feel they are competent. There is an issue with this as the HSE do not state what "competent" means in terms of Legionella and Landlords could leave themselves liable if they do not assess the risk correctly.
To assess the risk correctly a physical inspection of the hot and cold-water system needs to be carried out and measured again the performance criteria of the ACOP L8.
A written Legionella Risk Assessment needs to be created and recorded. The risk assessment needs to identify issues and recommended control & prevention tasks.
A Legionella Log Book should be maintained but this is nothing more than records of control & prevention work, service records, assessment reviews, etc.
There is also a difference between risk assessments for domestic rented properties and other Legionella risk assessments. In normal situations the HSE do not expect the same level of control and prevention that you would normally expect to find in other buildings. Part of being "competent" is being able to decide what steps are needed.
Should there be an issue with Legionella relating to your tenants, property or potentially nearby you may be asked by the HSE or Environmental Health Dept to produce your Legionella Risk Assessment and associated records. You may also be asked to demonstrate that you are competent.
If you do not have a Legionella Risk Assessment, have not carried out the risk assessment in a "competent" manor, not maintained the recommend control & prevention tasks or log book then you could be prosecuted, fined (with a starting point of £10,000) and potentially imprisoned.
At Water Wise Services LTD we offer an online DIY Legionella Risk Assessment service for Domestic Rented Properties or we can carry out the Risk Assessment for you. For more information see our associated pages.