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What can tenants do to minimise Legionella risk?

Happy tenant in comfortable home

Whilst landlords do have legal responsibilities to protect the health and safety of their tenants, including protecting them from the risk of exposure to Legionella, there are steps that the tenant, as the resident in the property, needs to also take, to help manage the risk.

On returning from a period away from the property

If you have been away for a week or more, with nobody remaining in the home, run the water through both the hot and cold systems, to clear the water that has been sitting in the system.

The most effective method is simply to turn on taps in basins and baths, and flush the toilets. You must avoid breathing in water droplets as you do this.

To wash through the shower head, put the shower head down in the bath or shower tray, to avoid too many water droplets in the air. Then turn it on for a short time.

If you have been away in the summer, the cold water storage tank could have sat for the whole time at over 20oC., encouraging breeding of the bacteria. This however is less likely to be a problem in the winter, when the cold water, even if stagnant, will be stored at a cooler temperature.

Ensuring the hot water is hot enough

The hot water must be set above 45oC to prevent bacteria breeding in the hot water tank. This ensures that each time the water is heated, it is hard for the Legionella bacteria to reproduce.

Beware of unused outlets

Run water through unused outlets. For example, if you have an en-suite in the guest bedroom, but this is not often used, then ensure you run water through both taps on the wash basin, and the toilet, and shower, periodically. Do this especially before anyone might be using those facilities.  Environmental Inspection recommends that this is done at least every seven days.

Carrying out these simple precautions will dramatically reduce the risk of contracting any of the diseases associated with the Legionella bacterium.

For further guidance, please contact Environmental Inspection or visit the Health and Safety Executive’s web site and search for their publication L8.


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