Although most tenanted residential properties are not at risk of infection from Legionella or Legionnaires’ disease all landlords are required to ensure the safety of their properties and this includes the water systems. In 2013 the Health and Safety Executive updated the code of practice requiring landlords to assess the risk of Legionella in rented, residential property.

Code of Practice (Opens in a new window on the HSE Website)

We are committed to protecting the health and safety of our tenants and recognise the risks from legionella bacteria may arise within your home.

Legionnaires’ disease is a form of pneumonia caused by the legionella bacteria ad can kill. Legionella are bacteria common in natural rivers, lakes and artificial water systems such as hot and cold water systems, storage tanks, pipe work, taps and showers.

Other possible sources of legionella include spa and whirlpool baths, humidifiers, drinking water systems, water features, garden hoses and sprinklers.

Legionella bacteria can survive in low temperatures but thrive between 20°C and 45°. Temperatures above 50°C will kill the bacteria. The infection is caused by the inhalation of water droplets or spray-mists which have been contaminated by the bacteria. Those most at risk include elderly people, smokers, heavy drinkers and those suffering from long term illness. It is not contracted through drinking contaminate water and cannot be passed from person to person.

The risk is very small but to ensure legionella remains under control always ensure you do the following:

  • Ensure the temperature of the hot water setting on the boiler is set to at least 55°C (but no more than 60°C)
  • If there is a hot water cylinder ensure the thermostat is set to at least 55°C (up to 60°C)
  • Before you move in and if you go away for more than a week, heat the water to 60°C for at least an hour and then run all the taps on full heat for at least 5 minutes. Shower heads should be placed on the tray or in the bath before being turned on.
  • Tell your landlord/agent if the hot water doesn’t heat up properly or the cold water becomes too warm.
  • Shower heads must be dismantled and cleaned quarterly or as indicated by the rate of fouling. If occupants have long term illness, smoker, heavy drinker or elderly, cleaning should be more regular.
  • If there are any unused taps, for example an outside garden tap or unused second toilet with hand basin, these must be run weekly throughout the tenancy.
  • If there is a spa pool, hot tub, whirlpool bath or spa bath this must be disinfected after every use according to the manufacturers instructions.

Keep it clean, keep it moving. Keep the hot, hot and the cold, cold.

Important Notice

Raising the temperature of warm water is one way to control legionella growth but increases the risk of burns and scalding. Please take care especially with small children and the elderly.