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Legionnaires disease


Health and safety legislation requires that landlords carry out risk assessments for the Legionella bacteria and thereafter maintain control measures to minimise the risk.    Most rented premises will be low risk but it is important that risk assessments are carried out and control measures introduced.


What is Legionnaires’ Disease?

Legionnaires’ Disease is a pneumonia like illness caused by the Legionella bacteria and can be fatal.  The infection is caused by breathing in small droplets of water contaminated by the bacteria.   The disease cannot be passed from one person to another.


Risk assessments

For most residential settings the risk assessment may well show the risks are low so long as simple control measures are followed.  This will apply to houses or flats with small domestic type water systems where the water turnover is high.   Provided the assessment shows the risks are insignificant and control measures are being properly managed no further action would be necessary other than periodic review.

There is no reason why the landlord should not carry out this risk assessment himself/herself so long as they are competent.    In particular landlords should:

  •  Understand different types of water systems
  • Understand legionella bacteria and the factors which increase the risk of an outbreak
  • Understand the control measures which if present will reduce the risk of an outbreak

Carrying out risk assessment

We have a risk assessment form based on advice from the Scottish Association of Landlords  which will enable you to carry out a simple straight forward risk assessment  yourself.


Control measures

Simple control measures will help manage the risk from Legionella and these should be maintained including:

  •  flushing out the water system by running all outlets for at least 2 minutes where the premises has not been used or stood empty for a time
  • avoiding debris getting into the system (e.g. making sure cold water tanks, if installed, have a tight fitting lid)
  • setting controls so that the hot water is heated to and stored at 60°C
  • the removal of any redundant pipe work
  • advising tenants to regularly clean, descale and disinfect shower heads

Advice for tenants

Landlords are entitled to expect the tenants will play their part in ensuring control measures are maintained.   

To assist we have prepared an advice note which is being issued to all our tenants to:

  • tell tenants of any action which arises from the landlords risk assessment if appropriate
  • tell tenants to inform us if the hot water system is not heating properly or if there are any other problems with the system
  • tell the landlord if the cold water system is not running cold
  • tell tenants to keep the water turned over

This is also incorporated in all our Short Assured Tenancy Agreements.


Unoccupied premises

The risk from Legionella may increase if the property is unoccupied. As a general rule, all outlets on hot and cold water systems should be used at least once a week for at least 2 minutes to maintain a degree of water flow and minimise the chances of stagnation.  For long periods consider draining the system.   


HSE Guidance

HSE have published detailed guidance and the relevant extract relating to residential accommodation is available on their website.


What is the letting agent’s responsibility?

Landlords are responsible for making sure the risks involving Legionella are properly assessed and controlled.  This is new legislation and outwith the scope of our management agreement, however, upon instruction Castlebrae would be happy to arrange this additional service on your behalf.


Do landlords need to employ a consultant or undertake sampling tests?

For straight forward residential accommodation the answer will be “no” as long as landlords are reasonably knowledgeable and competent.  However, if a block of flats is involved, unless each flat has its own self-contained hot and cold water system, further considerations and a more comprehensive risk assessment may be needed.


Reviewing the assessment

Landlords will need to review the assessment periodically, especially if there are any changes to the system.


What happens if the landlord does not carry out his/her obligations?

The consequences can be serious.   Landlords are legally required to manage properties so as not to expose tenants, residents and visitors to risk.  Heavy fines or even imprisonment can be imposed especially if someone were to unfortunately die. Landlords can be prosecuted even if there is an exposure to risk without anyone actually becoming ill.


Further information

For further information please visit the Health & Safety Executive website at:

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