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Legionnaire's disease, a potentially fatal form of pneumonia, can be caused by drinking water that has lain warm and still, conditions which foster the multiplication of legionella bacteria.

Landlords have a legal obligation to ensure the health and safety of their tenants by keeping the property safe and free of health hazards. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 require landlords to identify and assess the risk to others of any hazardous substances, including biological agents such as bacteria, and put into practice any necessary measures to control risks.

So what measures must landlords take to stay on the right side of the law? Whilst there is a duty to assess the risk of Legionella bacteria, in practice most residential settings are fortunately low-risk and therefore do not require an in-depth, detailed assessment. Low-risk situations, which require only a simple assessment, involve simple modern domestic water systems which are used every day. To minimise the risk of legionella bacteria spreading in a vacant property, it is recommended to flush water through all hot and cold water systems once a week and to disinfect shower heads. Risks are lowered by using instantaneous hot water systems like combi boilers and electric showers rather than having hot water storage tanks. Properties with older, less secure water systems and those which have not been lived in for longer periods should be subject to enhanced controls to reduce the likelihood of legionella bacteria growing.

If a tenant were to contract Legionnaire's disease from the water in their home, the landlord may be liable to prosecution and would have to demonstrate to a court that they had fulfilled their legal duty. It is therefore important that risks are adequately assessed and controlled, and it is a formal part of the Thorgills Client Support provision that landlords are guided through the necessary measures they must take in order to remain compliant.