COVID-19: Reducing Legionella Risk in Student Housing

Water Hygiene may not be at the forefront of property management’s attention in light of the ever-evolving changes to our businesses necessitated by COVID-19.

It may not be the most exhilarating topic (some may even find it a little “dry”), but it remains important, especially given the unexpectedly low occupancy numbers in many PBSA accommodations currently.

Nobody knows how long our lockdown will last here in the UK. Now that it has been extended by a further three weeks, as of Thursday 16 April, it’s likely to continue a little while longer yet.

Most Purpose-Built Student Accommodation properties are currently operating at very low occupancy rates. Fortunately, maintaining the safety of water systems does not require complex actions or organisation. If you haven’t already, you should also take a look at last month’s LCA (The Legionella Control Association) statement on the matter which included the following warning:

“The Health and Safety at Work Act still applies, and Dutyholders must be taking reasonably practicable steps to control risk from legionella throughout this time. Dutyholders implicated in an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease resulting from actions taken for COVID-19 precautions are not likely to have any exemption from prosecution.”

And as always the UK Gov (Health and Safety Executive) has landlord legionella responsibilities.

…“water is not allowed to stagnate within the water system and so there should be careful management of properties left vacant for extended periods (e.g. student accommodation left empty over the summer vacation).  As a general principle, outlets on hot and cold-water systems should be used at least once a week to maintain a degree of water flow and minimise the chances of stagnation. To manage the risks during non-occupancy, consideration should be given to implementing a suitable flushing regime or other measures such as draining the system if it is to remain vacant for long periods.”

The Simple Solution: Flush Your Outlets

Property managers have a duty to flush out all outlets, WEEKLY, not just a select few – the entire building needs to experience continuous movement rather than a prolonged period of low or no usage.

To ensure this process is efficient and easily manageable, perform flushing on different floors on different days – by the end of each week, aim to have addressed all outlets.

For example: top stories on Mondays, middle floors on Wednesdays and lower levels on Fridays.

To help track this weekly flushing process, Fjeld Consulting can offer a simple, centralised compliance web tracking tool for any PBSA property/company, at no cost until September and/or help you find an outsourced provider to do the flushing for you.

Please get in touch with our team today if you are interested.



About the Author: Dustin Fjeld

Dustin Fjeld
As founder member of Fjeld Consulting, Dustin has helped save clients thousands across a range of BTR, PBSA, PRS and Co-living portfolios.

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