Legionella scaremongering by some letting agents debunked

Legionella scaremongering by some letting agents debunked

14:30 PM, 18th May 2015, About 7 years ago 80

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For months now I have been fending off veiled and not so veiled threats from ill-informed letting agents about the consequences of not shelling out for legionella tests.

I have directly engaged several letting agents on their attempts to make landlords feel as though they are committing a crime against humanity unless immediately cave and hand over handfuls of cash.

So, as a service to landlords, I offer the following Health and Safety Executive directive at the bottom of this article

Next time you get one of those threatening letters from an agent just point them to that.

Hopefully it will stop the requests without having to raise your blood pressure too much trying to explain the realities to an agent that simply doesn’t have a clue on the subject themselves anyway.


Case 357 – Consultants and Letting Agents misinterpreting the risks of exposure to legionella of their tenants


Consultants and letting agents are i) using the revised L8 ACOP to infer there is new legislation regarding landlords responsibilities and ii) misrepresenting what the law requires of landlords of domestic rented properties in relation to assessing and controlling the risks of exposure to Legionella bacteria of their tenants, for financial gain.

Panel opinion

Health and Safety law does not require landlords to produce a ‘Legionnaires testing certificate’. Legionella testing is required only in exceptional circumstances and generally not in domestic hot and cold water systems. Such letting agents and consultants are scaremongering landlords, for financial gain, by misinterpreting and exaggerating the legal requirements to manage and control legionella in domestic premises.Legionella

HSE has published guidance for landlords, free to download from HSE’s website:

http://www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/faqs.htm – As a landlord, what are my duties?



by Luke P

12:38 PM, 20th May 2015, About 7 years ago

So can we just serve, as a matter of course at sign up, a document that tells the tenant to clean their shower head.

Simplest way possible is what most want.

I mean legionella...seriously. Hazard of life as far as I see.

by Badger

14:55 PM, 20th May 2015, About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Alex Sammut - ISAC UK Ltd" at "20/05/2015 - 11:49":

Hi Alex

"Given that there has been a huge amount of past history with cases of Legionnaires disease from hot and cold domestic systems..."

Are there any specific cases that are detailed online that you could point us to please?

by Michael Barnes

17:35 PM, 20th May 2015, About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Badger " at "18/05/2015 - 17:10":

I wouldn’t be surprised if before long it will become a part of a landlord’s statutory duty to pop round once a day!

You mean it isn't already?

Now I am going to have to find another reason to go and see that nice young lady that is living in my flat.

by Rob Crawford

18:18 PM, 20th May 2015, About 7 years ago

Does anyone have a clause in their AST's that transfers some of the risk management to the tenant during the tenancy term? I would be interested in the wording used.

by Genghis Perriaman

22:32 PM, 20th May 2015, About 7 years ago

Whilst I agree that some degree of scaremongering has been going on from some letting agents and some of what they prescribe is wholly unnecessary, I would be very cautious in burying ones head in the sand on this issue.

Ultimately whilst the risks are extremely low in a residential property, legionella has the potential to kill in the same way as a faulty gas appliance - the difference being a landlord should be more than capable of doing the assessment unlike a gas safe registered engineer for the gas check. an ex-colleague of mine nearly died of this but this was due to a hospital cooling tower in the mid 80s believe it or not !

The HSE guidance is reasonable but I think it should be more prescriptive - for example there should be a standard checklist proforma for residential, commercial properties etc this would clear up any ambiguity and be less open to interpretation.

Personally I created a 2 page checklist based on the HSE guidance I may think this is adequate but what if Ive missed something not tested the items in the checklist adequately or included unnecessary stuff thereby wasting my time.

All landlords prefer not to have excessive bureaucracy however this is one example where I think further clarity is welcome - without sounding cynical any sensible landlord has to cover his/her bases and in the event of an incident how confident would you be defending yourself in court on the basis of a self-proclaimed non endorsed risk assessment - at least if the assessment is HSE approved, the buck stops with them and not you as a landlord.

by Luke P

6:58 AM, 21st May 2015, About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Genghis Perriman" at "20/05/2015 - 22:32":

Hear, hear!

by Jireh Homes

9:03 AM, 21st May 2015, About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Genghis Perriman" at "20/05/2015 - 22:32":

Fully agree with Genghis's approach. As Landlords we have a duty to have a Risk Assessment and control measures. If not confident to be deemed competent, engage somebody who is, but as for most domestic properties this is a fairly straightforward task the cost should be low. If any provider talks of the necessity of legionnaire testing ditch them and look elsewhere. Allan

by Badger

9:19 AM, 21st May 2015, About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Genghis Perriman" at "20/05/2015 - 22:32":

"...at least if the assessment is HSE approved, the buck stops with them..."

To be cynical for a moment - I think this is why they don't provide such a list.

I agree that it would be jolly useful if they did but, slightly less cynically, the real reason why they don't (and presumably never will) is because they cannot hope to second guess all possible scenarios. Hence the move to 'risk based assessment' legislation in recent decades.

by Luke P

9:52 AM, 21st May 2015, About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Badger " at "21/05/2015 - 09:19":

That to me though says that even though if you do a risk assessment and everything else you think necessary, when the proverbial does hit the fan we as landlords will be seen as the easy target. The question of why legionnaires occurred if you carried out the correct checks (even if you genuinely did) will still be asked and highly likely you'll be in for some bother.

Making landlords responsible for these sorts of things (I'm also thinking residency status checks) is getting silly.

by Alex Sammut - ISAC UK Ltd

10:17 AM, 21st May 2015, About 7 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Badger " at "20/05/2015 - 14:55":

Hi Badger, apologies for the delay in replying to your question.

The biggest case of Legionnaires disease (and deaths) due to an inadequately managed domestic hot and cold water system that I can offer you is that of Basildon Hospital in recent years.

Although set in a hospital environment it was in fact the lack of cleaning and control of their Showerheads and Thermostatic Mixer Valves (TMVs), as well as their stored water in their domestic pipework that ultimately housed the significant amount of Legionella bacteria that the victims inhaled when outlets were used. If you google it the guardian has a reasonable article about all of their failings.

This is not the only big case to make the media. At around the same time Basildon were being fined for this there was an outbreak in a hospital in Brisbane, Australia, due to exactly the same reasons.

Whilst people reading this may highlight the fact that it is in a hospital environment rather than a residential house, with indeed generally higher susceptible groups, the fact remains that all of the key factors could be present within a domestic residential setting too and thus any risk assessment should consider these variables on your properties. Consider this:

1) Is it foreseeable that you have shower heads and TMV's in a house? YES
2) Is it foreseeable that you could present correct temperatures and food supplies in a house as in the hospital cases quoted? YES
4) Is it foreseeable that a rented house will have void periods and/or outlets that don't get used often allowing for stagnation of water? YES
5) Is it foreseeable that you could have vulnerable groups of people renting your properties? YES
6) Is it foreseeable that these vulnerable groups of people will be exposed to an aerosol when using said showerheads and outlets in the property? YES

Whilst residential households typically present very low risks in general, due to the daily use and throughput of water all of the above must be adequately considered and controlled. In a house this will typically not require extensive controls or cost but merely a sensible approach.

In addition, I've heard a lot of people in the letting industry say that there have never been any cases attributed to domestic residential properties. The fact of the matter is that we have never looked for it specifically there and often put it down to another cause, such as travel or community acquired.

The Pubic Health England (PHE) have started quoting an annual figure of between 10-12% of all domestic properties that they test have a positive count for Legionella Bacteria in.
In addition, I recently read a research paper from Ohio, USA, that focused on patients coming into the local hospitals with Legionnaires disease. The research team managed to get a percentage of them to agree that they could test for Legionella bacteria in their domestic properties and figure of around 25% of the properties tested came back with a positive count of Legionella Bacteria.

Hope that this answers your question. Kind Regards Alex

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