When you move into a new flat or any other type of residential accommodation, you want to make sure that nothing in the premises could put you at risk for both minor and serious health conditions. Your expectation is that the landlord regularly and vigilantly sees to the quality and integrity of the accommodation for the tenants' benefit.

Unfortunately, there are some health risks that can still find their way to the unsuspecting landlords and tenants. An example would be Legionella bacteria finding their way into your residential building's water supply and putting you at risk of getting Legionnaires' disease, a potentially fatal form of pneumonia.

Can you get it?

You can get Legionnaires' disease when you inhale small droplets of water suspended in the air which contain the Legionella bacteria. The risk is also increased when the following conditions are met:

  • The water in the residential building is stored and/or re-circulated
  • The temperature of the water system falls between 20 to 45 degrees Celsius (this range is ideal for supporting the growth of Legionella bacteria)
  • Facilities or appliances in the residence cause the creation of breathable water droplets
  • There are deposits like scale, sludge, rust, biofilms and organic growth that can provide nutrition and support bacterial growth

 

Protecting everyone's health

Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1989, landlords who provide residential accommodation are legally required to "consider, assess and control the risks of exposure to Legionella to their tenants." In addition, Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 ensures that the legislation applies to landlords in both domestic and business premises.

However, you can do your part as a tenant, too, and contribute to preventing Legionella from flourishing in your residential accommodation. Here are simple things you can do to help:

Clean showerheads regularly. Using the shower, when the showerheads don't get regular cleaning, is one of the easiest ways to expose yourself to Legionella bacteria. Use a mildly acidic solution like Shower Head Plus to remove scale deposits from the showerhead.

Refrain from adjusting the calorifier. Your landlord should enforce parameters such as keeping the temperature of the calorifier set at 60 degrees Celsius, and you should make sure to follow this rule so your water is kept safe from Legionella growth.

Inform the landlord immediately if there are problems with the hot water systems, like if the water is not heating properly. Your landlord should be made aware of any problems with the water system so that appropriate action can be taken right away.

Cooperate with Legionnaires' testing procedures. Your landlord may obtain Legionella testing kits to have the water from your accommodation's system examined in a certified lab for the presence of Legionella bacteria. Be ready to collect samples of water from your flat's shower, if requested, at certain intervals so that the growth of the harmful bacteria can be kept in check.

 

Written by +Duncan Hollis, Aquacert