Legionella Assessment – Another Bug Bear for Landlords?

LegislationLandlords have to contend with more legislation than ever these days. The trend towards governance and regulation holds no sign of abating. Are these just hoops to jump through, or are they requirements imposed for a reason?

The latest missive relates to the exciting subject of Assessment of Legionella. Hardly a subject to get the pulse racing it does have serious implications for landlords should your tenant contract legionella because of some perceived failure of you the landlord…….


The need for electrical and gas safety, energy performance certificates and Tenants Deposit Protection are all fairly well embedded in the practice of many private landlords. They are well understood since they directly relate to improving either safety or energy efficiency and in the case of the Tenants Deposit, fair play for both landlord and tenant.

Leonard Rossitor

Any initiative that helps look after a tenant and their wellbeing and at the same time eradicates the shoddy landlord, the Mr Rigby’s of the world are surely a good thing? After all it is the Mr Rigby’s that give the rest of us a bad name!

The latest Duty of Care relates to the control of Legionella in water systems would you believe. It is not a new directive as such but one that appeared more relevant for block managers than private landlords. The requirement now is that all Private landlords and agents should be pro-active in preventing the occurrence and spread of the legionella bacteria!

Legionella 1

The recommendations from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) can be found at the link below:

Very briefly it recommends you:

  1. Carry out a risk assessment of the likely existence of legionella
  2. Manage and control the risk of legionella
  3. Keep records of what you have done in relation to 1 and 2 above.

If you have undertaken 1, 2 and 3 above and problem presents itself the intimation is that by virtue of following good practice and being diligent you are going someway to protecting yourself from liability.

Is this another ‘bird flu’ epidemic hyped out of all proportion I hear you groan? Is this an EU inspired directive which has no sense of balancing the real risk? This view may be valid. Like many directives, duties and legal imperatives they may appear senseless, unless of course you are the unlucky one to be affected by it.

A cousin of mine from Falmouth nearly died as a result of a viral infection following eating seafood a few years back. The moral is tragedy is capable of happening when you least expect it and from the unforeseen. Therefore should we mock what appears to be madness? After all pretty much every year without fail we will hear of, read, experience or bear witness to a hotel, a passenger cruiser, holiday camp which has had serious illness or even death associated with Legionella. So off you jolly well  go and check your showerheads, toilet cisterns, outside toilets, old water tanks and extractor ducting.

In all seriousness we intend to review this revised HSE duty of care expected of landlords. It is such a recent revision that our professional bodies are trying to absorb the fallout. It is probably not as onerous in practice that the directive suggests. If you would like to know more as our own thoughts evolve then please contact Paul or I.


Please don’t worry at this stage since we must get a sense of these things before we change the world. Putting this into perspective one of my more ‘colourful’ landlords, suggested that “Seagulls and pigeons” (described as flying sh** machines) posed a greater risk to his tenants health particularly on bin day around Marlborough Road. I understand his sentiment and suggest that he enlist the help of students in the area looking for a worthwhile PhD subject to study.

Take care Mr Landlord. I’m off to Trescobeas Surgery to get my anti-bacterial jabs and then check out my water tank .  In the meantime beware of Seagulls and Legionella (probably in that order).