Legionella, the Law and You.
What is a landlord?
A landlord is anyone who rents out a property they own under a lease or a licence that is shorter than seven years. Landlords’ duties apply to a wide range of accommodation, occupied under a lease or a licence, which includes but not exclusively, residential and commercial premises provided for rent by:
- local authorities
- housing associations
- private sector landlords
- housing co-operatives
The Law and You
The law is clear that if you are a landlord and rent out your property (or even a room within your own home) then you have legal responsibilities to ensure the health and safety of your tenant by keeping the property safe and free from health hazards.
Section 3 (2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 makes provision for relevant health and safety legislation to apply to landlords to ensure a duty of care is shown to their tenants’ with regard to their health and safety. The general duties require under section 3(2) that: “It shall be the duty of every self-employed person to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that he and other persons (not being his employees) who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.
“Landlords, under Section 53 of Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 are regarded as being self-employed and tenants fall into the class of “other persons (not being his employees)”. If you rent out a property, you have legal responsibilities to ensure you conduct your undertaking in such a way that your tenant(s) are not exposed to health and safety risks.
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) provides a framework of actions to control the risk from a range of hazardous substances, including biological agents (e.g.Legionella) – to identify and assess the risk, and implement any necessary measures to control any risk. There has been no change to UK legislation since the L8 –The Control of Legionella bacteria in water systems Approved Code of Practice (3rd edition) (ACOP) was published in 2001. It is a requirement for landlords of both domestic and business premises to assess the risks of their tenants from exposure to Legionella.
L8 Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) was revised and republished in November 2013 and retained the guidance on the requirements of Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and COSHH for employers and those with responsibilities for the control of premises including landlords (L8 ACOP, paragraphs 1and 2). It applies to the control of Legionella bacteria in any undertaking involving a work activity and applies to premises controlled in connection with a trade, business or other undertaking where wateris used or stored and there is a reasonably foreseeable risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria (L8ACOP, paragraph 22).
Testing or sampling for Legionella (sometimes referred to as microbiological monitoring) is not usually required for domestic hot and cold water systems. The testing for Legionella should not be confused with temperature monitoring, which is a reliable method for confirming the water system is under control. Health and safety law does NOT require landlords to obtain, produce nor does HSE recognise a ‘Legionella test certificate’.
HSE and Local Authority inspectors do not proactively inspect domestic premises or ask for evidence that landlords have undertaken a risk assessment. However, if a tenant were to contract Legionnaires’ disease from the water system in their home, the landlord may be liable to prosecution under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and would have to demonstrate to a court that they had fulfilled their legal duty, so it is important that they assess and control the risks.