By Steve Roulstone


Last year, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) changed the regulations on the size of water tank for regular inspection for Legionella disease, which had the implication that all rental property is now included within the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 legislation. I wrote at the time that what the industry needed (Rental Industry) was a clear and defined method of dealing with the implications of this change, well the results are in and Landlords are once again facing the bill.

We all know that the risk of a Tenant catching Legionella within a residential property is slim, I doubt anybody would sensibly deny that, but what cannot be denied, is that the HSE are quite clear in their advice on the subject, that it is clearly the responsibility of Landlords to ensure that all precautions are taken to avoid any risk at all. This means all houses must be considered for Health and Safety checks and as Agents we have no option, in fulfilling our obligations to our Landlords, but to advise that check be carried out.

There is a difference here in that the decision as stated in the legislation, lies clearly with the Landlord and therefore whilst we have to recommend the inspection, every Landlord has the right to say no and as long as we can confirm the instruction, then our position is clear. The point being, it is not our decision, but we always have to give best advice and can never confirm that a property does not need investigating.

The Code of Practise change states that to comply with the law in this area, it is required that all rental properties must have had a Legionella risk assessment, so only if the disease occurs would failure to comply become an issue. What the decision by the HSE confirms, is that no risk is to small to escape their attention.

What is not considered is where do you stop? Just how many checks and precautions do you carry out before you accept that life carries risks and no matter how you live your life, you run the risk of being caught out at one time or another, by something outside of our control? Just imagine for a moment that it was found that by cleaning every carpet every year, that asthma was cut by half. Does that also become the responsibility of the Landlord as well? Or does the Tenant accept the risk, or, have the carpets cleaned themselves.

This for me is where this legislation falls down, by all means make everybody aware of the risks in private houses, but let’s have a situation where the Tenant decides if the check should be carried out and if they feel it should, let’s have the price shared by both parties if the Tenant wishes to have the risk assessed?

I once again turn to the sales industry, has anybody suggested that private houses should have this investigation before they are sold? The answer of course is no, but I fail to see what the differences are and why once again, the rental industry has been signalled out for action. So this additional burden has been placed upon all Landlords, but I repeat, no matter what I believe, in our position as a professional management agency, we cannot ignore compliance issues, particularly in relation to the health of Tenants and in the interest of safety.

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