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The subject of risk assessments for Legionella has been prompting debate ever since the onus was placed on landlords to take reasonable preventative measures a few years ago. Yet, the discussions have reached a new peak as New York is rocked by the disease.

Thus far, there have been 121 (86) confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease in New York since July 10, along with 12 (seven) deaths, demonstrating the potential for disaster that an outbreak can have.

There are still many within the rentals sector, however, who believe that risk assessments are a waste of both time and money. There are also many unqualified individuals who have jumped on the bandwagon to offer cut-price and in many cases, low quality, risk assessment services.

There are undoubtedly landlords who see such assessments as little more than another way in which letting agents can make some cash. However, there is little doubt that an outbreak can have serious and potentially life-threatening consequences. Is that something you would want to risk just to save a few pounds?

The 12 (seven) people dead in America and recent cases which resulted in one woman having her foot amputated in New Zealand puts everything into perspective. This is why landlords are expected to take their responsibilities seriously in terms of the prevention of Legionnaires’ disease.

Writing on LinkedIn property industry expert Siȃn Hemming-Metcalfe, director of The Metcalfe Partnership, said: “If you are thinking that such assessments are not required, necessary or that a £20 report is going to protect the tenant, landlord or letting agent then you really need to both read and understand your responsibilities as shown in the HSE approved code of practice

The Health and Safety Executive calls for all landlords to carry out a Legionella risk assessment if they are capable and competent of doing so themselves. If not, they should (are expected to) employ the services of a professional service or competent individual to do the job for them.

Sian (Hemming-Metcalfe) says that anyone engaging professionals should ensure they that check out the company or individual’s insurance documents and confirm that they are qualified and competent to do the job properly.

She also recommends requesting a sample report, asking what information will be provided to tenants and seeing what control strategies the professionals would suggest for managing risks.

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that attempts will be made to push mandatory inspections across the city, in addition to the cleaning of cooling towers in air conditioning units, in the wake of the South Bronx outbreak.

New York City officials have thus far inspected 20 (17) cooling towers, tested positive for the Legionella bacteria.

De Blasio said New York City lawmakers on Thursday approved a new law meant to stop the spread of Legionnaires’ disease and prevent future outbreaks which include the requirement for regular inspections of cooling towers, together with sanctions for those who fail to comply.

He believes that the Legionnaire’s risk has been underestimated ‘for too long’ but that the problem would now be dealt with aggressively.

Could the same be said in this country too?