There has been a lot of confusion about domestic rented properties needing a Legionella Risk Assessment and indeed if one is needed at all. In brief, all rented properties need a Legionella Risk Assessment carrying out. The confusion happened because of a misunderstanding around the requirements of the ACOP L8, the actions of several letting agents and Landlord groups.
In 2013 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 which effectively excluded domestic properties. The 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 bacteria. After 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or review the risk assessment at least once every 2 years or if there is reason the believe the risk assessment is no longer valid.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 occurred because of agents who contacted landlords advising them that they have a legal or statutory 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 scope of 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 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 risk assessment needs to be written based on the inspection. There are some claims that a "written" risk assessment is not needed and you only need to show you have considered the risks of Legionella. Whilst this is partly true we must also consider that if there is an outbreak of Legionnaires Disease how does a Landlord show they considered the risk of Legionella? The answer is simple, it is proved by a 'written' Legionella Risk Assessment.
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.