With many properties, both residential and commercial, sitting dormant due to lockdowns and reduced demand for letting, you may be wondering what this prolonged period of inactivity is doing your empty property. The simple fact is that a property that is not lived in or used regularly can lead to maintenance issues, such as damp and pests. A neglected property is also more at risk of being broken into, as well as attracting squatters and being a target for vandalism and theft. With all this in mind, property owners should be aware of the increased risk of toxic hazards and risks to the health of future occupants. Not least of these is legionella, which can be a serious health hazard to form in a stagnant property and should be addressed as part of a property inspection before the property is once again occupied.
What is legionella?
Legionella is the group of bacteria which cause legionellosis, the communal name for all diseases caused by the legionella bacterium. These include legionnaire’s disease and pontiac fever, which cause pneumonia-like and flu-like symptoms, affecting the respiratory system and in some cases can lead to death. Although most legionella outbreaks are usually linked to cooling towers which have been poorly maintained, they can also occur in other sources of fresh water, such as hot water tanks and hot tubs. Infections often happens as a result of drinking contaminated water or by inhaling contaminated water droplets or airborne particles and although the bacteria cannot be transmitted from person to person, outbreaks can affect dozens of people at once.
How can legionella be controlled and eradicated?
As legionella thrives in temperatures of between 25°C and 51°C, it is important to keep all cold water below 25°C and all hot water above 51°C. Treating water systems with chlorine, copper-silver ionisation or ultraviolet light are also effective ways of dealing with legionella bacteria. Legionella grows best in stagnant water, so regular maintenance of all water systems including internal pipes and external water systems such as water fountains and features is vital. Often used bathroom items such as showerheads and taps, which are an ideal breeding ground for legionella bacteria, should be frequently disinfected – ideally every three months – by submerging in water and disinfectant. Showerheads should be removed and descaled to remove any dirt and limescale.
What can you do to prevent or minimise the risk of legionella in your home or business premises?
It is important to undertake a risk assessment for any property you plan to let, which should be revised at least every two years. Pay particular attention to the property’s water supply, both inside and out, and put in place a plan to keep legionella at bay. This could mean carrying out regular property inspections or enforcing a cleaning schedule, which will help keep on top of the risk posed by legionella and other threats to human health. Remember that legionella thrives particularly well in stagnant water, so ensure that bathrooms, kitchens and other areas where an empty property may be at risk of spreading contagion are cleaned thoroughly and with appropriate detergents such as bleach, which will help to kill the bacteria. Chlorine dioxide is particularly efficient at eliminating the legionella bacteria in both hot and cold water systems and can be used both inside and out.
Use the above tips to put in place a plan of action to get your empty property ready for the letting market again, increasing clients’ trust and giving owners peace of mind that the risks and ensuing problems are kept to a minimum.
The InventoryBase Academy Legionella Template Guidance provides full guidance, designed to follow and capture the requirements of residential water supplies in the rental sector.
Inventorybase’s property inspection software and pre-loaded templates can help identify the areas most at risk of legionella and other issues caused by empty properties, and ensure a stress-free letting experience for both the property owner and the prospective tenant. With our inventory app, accessible from any mobile device, you can have the property’s history on hand whenever you need it. Organise professional inventories and inspections, compile risk assessments and check clients in and out of residential and business properties with our revolutionary app.