Guest post by Chris Wood of Legionella Safety Scotland.
A lot has been written about legionella and the requirement for legionella risk assessments; you can find some great articles on the SAL website, lots of technical information on the HSE website and of course there was a very good blog article on this website in December last year.
Our feeling is that dealing with the risk of legionella in the private rented sector is not just about going through the motions of completing a legionella risk assessment. It is about an intrinsic holistic approach that will really help to avoid the outbreak of a legionosis (a legionella bacteria related illness) in the properties you manage.
Of course there are many challenges that you will be dealing with right now and the legionella legislation does add further pressure to your landlords i.e. on top of the EICR, smoke detectors, etc. Hopefully what you are about to read will give you another perspective on your role and will be even more useful to you as the letting agent.
- Staff training
The risk of legionella bacteria being present is at its highest when a property has been empty for a period of time. Therefore it is important that the people visiting the property, to carry out viewings or repairs for instance, should be aware of this fact. They should also be able to carry out some simple tasks that will help to reduce the risk of legionella.
During the tenancy, at property inspections, your staff can help greatly in the education of tenants. We suggest that extra guidance on managing the risk is either given verbally or through a fact sheet (or both).
As well as giving your tenants a fact sheet on legionella, you can also include a clause in the tenancy agreement that will encourage your tenants to follow legionella safety guidance. We believe that your tenant would not be breaking their terms of the lease by not following this guidance however I am sure most tenants would see it being in their best interest to do so. Please seek legal guidance on this.
The contract with your landlord should also be amended to clearly state the requirement of a legionella risk assessment and also ensure that they will carry out any related remedial works.
- Landlord concerns
Getting a legionella risk assessment is not as expensive for your landlord as the rest of the legislation that that they are having to pay. However it will possibly feel like “the straw that broke the camels back”.
In an effort to avoid this feeling it is important that a legionella risk assessment gives real value to your client and is of real benefit to the tenants; after all the whole reason for this legislation is to give your tenants a safer environment in which to live.
We feel that the legionella risk assessment must give a clear and easy to understand insight into the properties water system and exactly where any risks may or may not lie. The legionella risk assessment should be a report that is written in plain English.
Other articles already mentioned will give you the legal detail and the possible ramifications of not following the law. This information can be communicated to your landlord and hopefully they will see that you are being the responsible letting agent they want you to be.
I hope that this article has been of use and has met the goals that I set out in the introduction. Please feel free to get in contact with Legionella Safety Scotland. We would be happy to help if you and your letting team would like any further advice or training.