Keeping Tenants Safe
Landlords, who are renting out property on a long-term basis or as short holiday lets, may not be aware of problems that might arise from the plumbing system if the property isn’t in use all the time. Below are some of the issues that may need some attention. This advice is also relevant to someone who is going to rent or buy a property that has been empty for a while.
There are many types of microbes that can live and multiply in showerheads (Microbes are single-cell organisms so tiny that millions can fit into the eye of a needle). Most of the time they do no harm to humans, but some, like Mycobacterium avium can cause respiratory infections if inhaled via the water spray. Legionella pneumonophila is a bacterium that can also live in a showerhead. If tiny droplets of infected water are inhaled by someone with a poor immune or respiratory system, it may lead to Legionnaires’ disease, which is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia.
It is rare for this to happen as the risks are small, but like most things prevention is better than cure. If you dismantle, clean and descale showerheads on a regular basis you shouldn’t have any problems.
Washbasin taps (flexible hose connectors)
Scientific investigations have shown that some flexible hoses used to connect washbasin taps to plumbing systems are completely unsuitable because the inner surfaces provide ideal places for bacteria to attach and form biofilm (a biofilm is any group of microorganisms in which cells stick to each other on a surface).
These hoses can provide the right conditions for the growth of Legionella bacteria, however, it should be mentioned that it would be rare for someone to contract Legionnaires’ disease this way. If you are thinking of installing this type of tap connector, ensure that it is WRAS approved. To find out more, please visit www.wras.co.uk
A ‘dead leg’ is a redundant length of pipework (usually when modifications are made in a property), which is left in place and capped. WRAS guidelines state that the length of any dead leg should be limited to two times the pipe’s diameter. Water cannot circulate in a dead leg, so if the dead leg is much longer than that, it could be a breeding ground for Legionella. If you are unsure, consult a professional plumber.
Hot tubs/spa pools
When it comes to holiday homes or luxury properties, hot tubs or spa pools may be installed.
The Health and Safety Executive states that, ‘A domestic spa pool installed in a holiday home should be managed as a commercial spa pool’. Their guidance goes on to say, ‘Where a spa pool is supplied for use at a holiday home, it needs to have a continuous chemical feeder built into the spa to continuously treat it with disinfectant. The whole system will need regular – at least weekly, depending upon bathing load – shock treatment, drain down and cleaning’.
Information on this topic can be downloaded from: www.gov.uk
Whilst there is a legal duty for landlords to assess and control the risk of exposure to legionella bacteria, Health and Safety law does not require landlords to produce a ‘Legionnaires Testing Certificate'.
According to the HSE, some consultants and letting agents are using the revised L8 ACOP to suggest that new legislation has been imposed on landlords of domestic rented properties in relation to assessing and controlling the risks of exposure to Legionella bacteria of their tenants.
This is wrong, the legislation has not been changed and any misinterpretation/misunderstanding can impose unnecessary financial burdens on landlords where they are being charged for legionella testing and certificates they don’t actually need.
Landlords can download free guidance from www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/
The CIPHE has a policy and position statement for private landlords concerning Legionella testing that can be viewed here.