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New rules for landlords to help control Legionnaires' Disease7th August 2012

To help control the threat of Legionnaires’ disease, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is directing residential property landlords, or their managing agents, to comply with a recently revised Approved Code of Practice –“Legionnaires’ disease: the control of legionella bacteria in water systems”.

Legionella are bacteria common in artificial water systems such as storage tanks, pipework, taps and showers. People can catch the disease if they inhale into their lungs tiny water or vapour droplets carrying the bacteria.

Illness starts with flu-like symptoms, but can develop into lung infections or pneumonia, which can prove fatal in one in ten patients.

“The new guidance underlines new legal requirements for landlords or their agents to ensure the risk from legionella – in all forms of water systems found in residential rented premises – is fully assessed and controlled,” said Dorian Gonsalves, Chief Executive Officer of residential lettings specialist Belvoir.

“Landlords and property management or lettings agents must identify and assess potential sources of exposure and take steps to prevent and control such risks – keeping detailed records of their findings and recommendations for at least five years.”

While legionella bacteria are usually associated with larger water systems, such as cooling towers in commercial buildings and hospitals, they can thrive and multiply in hot or cold water systems and storage tanks in flats and houses, and can be spread through the property by showers and taps.

Particular attention should be paid to water storage and header tanks, thermostatic mixing valves and to the potential for any build-up of debris, such as sludge, in a system. A risk is also posed if water could become stagnant in an under used area of the property - for example taps, showers or washing machine pipes.

Although the chance of legionella occurring in residential properties is minimal, the HSE says that recent research shows that it can be found in smaller domestic systems - hence the need for new legislation.

Different properties will require differing approaches – a new build property with a combi-boiler presents less risk than a Victorian terrace with an old water system.

Landlords can take a number of  preventative measures, from disinfection of a system to insulation of pipework.

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