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Property company urges landlords to test for deadly disease

Acorn Properties (Jesmond) Ltd, one of the North-East’s most respected letting and property management specialists, has warned that too many landlords are ignoring the legal requirement to carry out checks into the dangers of Legionnaires’ Disease.

Acorn Properties, which has offices in Newcastle and Durham and is increasing its activities in the Sunderland and South Shields area, has expressed its concerns about confusion among landlords about an amendment to the law that changed their responsibilities.

The change to the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act, introduced in 2013, extended the requirement to check for Legionella to properties that use less than 200 litres of water a day, which includes all rented properties and small businesses.

Acorn says that confusion over the change in the law means that some landlords are simply ignoring their legal responsibility, which could allow the deadly bacteria to build up in water supplies.

Legionellosis is a collective term for diseases caused by legionella bacteria which is found in water, in particular standing water. The most serious illness it can cause is Legionnaires’ Disease, a potentially fatal form of pneumonia.

According to Acorn Managing Director John Henderson, the confusion surrounds Health and Safety Executive (HSE) comments which suggest that some consultants and letting agents are ‘scaring landlords for financial gain’, saying that they need to pay for a test of their water supply.

The HSE clearly states on its website that, although health and safety law does not require landlords to produce a ‘Legionnaires testing certificate’, there is still a legal duty for landlords to assess and control the risk, by means of a written, and therefore documented should the need arise, “Risk Assessment”, of exposure to legionella bacteria, something that in most cases will not cost landlords anything.

John said: “There are a lot of misleading statements being made and we are concerned that the confusion means that some landlords think they can simply ignore this amendment to the law.

“What people are not realising is that “less than 200 litres a day” means basically, anything more than a teaspoonful. So for less than 200 litres is really saying anyone that has a corporate or business responsibility.

“It is a myth to say that landlords do not need to check their water supply. There is a legal requirement to do so and Acorn is providing a free, simple to use form with every confirmation of let to their landlords, which can allow them do it themselves without paying.

“Although the chances of anyone actually catching this disease are extremely unlikely, the potential consequences of not carrying out checks are unimaginable for a landlord. We are talking possible corporate manslaughter charges as well as very large fines plus the chance of civil actions from tenants’ families demanding compensation.

“We are concerned that the confusion in landlords’ minds could put lives, and the landlord’s personal finances, at risk, which is why we have issued advice to all our landlords to make sure that they understand their obligation. In addition, if we manage a property for a landlord, we will do this basic risk assessment for them, as part of our service, free of charge.”

For more information call John Henderson at Acorn in Jesmond 0191 212 2020 or Durham on 0191 212 6970 and he will be happy to clarify and help you.