Landlords have several responsibilities to the people renting their home, including making sure that it's safe and inhabitable. This involves checking the smoke alarms, getting a gas safety certificate and conducting an electrical check.
These procedures are clear potential hazards that should be checked. One safety aspect that doesn't get as much coverage, however, is legionnaires' disease. If you're a renter, it's likely that you haven't given much thought to the idea of catching legionnaires' disease in your home.
You might not even know what legionnaires' disease is. If that happens to be the case, then this guide is for you. We're detailing everything you need to know about legionnaires' disease and how it can impact your home.
What is legionnaires' disease?
Legionnaires' disease is a severe form of pneumonia, which is typically caused by an infection. It's brought on by a bacteria known as legionella. The majority of people who catch legionnaires' disease do so by inhaling the bacteria from water or soil.
Older adults, smokers and people with a weakened immune system are more susceptible to legionnaires' disease. It causes Pontiac fever and mild flu-like symptoms but mostly clears up on its own, though it can be fatal in some cases.
Can you catch legionnaires' disease in your home?
Legionnaires' disease is caught through the bacteria in water and soil, two things associated with your home. We're willing to hedge our bets that your place has running water and, if you've got outside space, the soil could prove to be a tricky component.
However, it's water from tanks, pipework, shower heads and whirlpool baths that prove to be the easiest way to catch legionnaires' disease around the home. This means it poses a risk to you. And if you're a renter, you might be wondering about potential chances of catching it in your home.
The Legionella Risk Assessment Legislation
Unlike other legal requirements from landlords, such as smoke alarm testing and gas safety, the rules around legionnaires' disease testing are somewhat hazy. Landlords have a legal responsibility to assess and control the risk and exposure to legionella bacteria, and it's recommended one should be taken every couple of years.
Here's the tricky bit, though: health and safety law doesn't require landlords to get an official certificate. To confuse things further, many landlords and renters are completely unaware of the Legionella Risk Assessment test.
Should you get a Legionella Risk Assessment test?
Before you hit panic stations, it's important to remember that legionnaires' disease is quite rare in the UK. Around 300-500 people get it each year in the UK – not much when the population is 66-plus million.
However, if you're concerned about potentially catching it, you can ask your landlord to conduct a test. It's such a small risk that landlords can even carry the test out themselves, identifying hazards such as…
- If water is stored or recirculated as part of the system
- Noting water temperature in some parts of the system to see if it's between 20-45c
- Seeing if there are sources of nutrients like rust, organic matters, scale and sludge
- Checking if conditions encourage bacteria to multiply
- If water droplets could be dispersed over a wide area.
The landlord can also take other risk factors into account, such as the demographic of the person renting their property. Ultimately, if a landlord doesn't feel confident carrying out the test, they can arrange for a Legionella Risk Assessment test which costs between £50 and £200.
Understanding legionnaires' disease
The chances are that you're not a significant risk to legionnaires' disease, but it's still worthwhile to know what it is and how it can affect your home. As long as you've got all the information, you can make an informed decision about whether you should get the required checks for legionella around the home.