One of the nuts-and-bolts issues of practically maintaining a property is ensuring that the water systems are correctly treated and nice and safe.
Risks of legionella exist, with some unfortunate cases of legionella bacteria growing and causing Legionnaires disease to hit the public eye, becoming a more critical factor to consider in effective property management.
The problem is that it can seem quite complicated, like, say, asbestos plans and fire risk assessments. But as a property manager, this doesn’t need to be the case.
In terms of an excellent go-to guide on how to deal with, then the ACOP Control of Legionella Regulations is a good start, and appreciating who fills the Statutory Duty Holder, Responsible Person and Maintenance Manager (often the property owner, property manager, and contractor respectively).
Once you have the right contractors, procedures, and checks in place, it becomes easier; therefore, you must consciously take a step back and see the bigger picture.
Therefore, here are 10 top water-compliance factors to know about, including checklists where needed. Get this bottomed-out, and the rest will slot into place.
1. Suss out What You’re Dealing With
Firstly know what you’re responsible for, both literally but also legally.
So see where all pipes lead to, where they first come into the property, and where each spurs off into different occupied areas.
And make sure all the equipment like boilers and heaters are located correctly in often hidden areas like storage rooms and lofts.
But then check which parts of these you are responsible for under leases, licence agreements, and ownership details.
So, if you’re managing shared areas, you may end up looking after pipes outside the property leading to this building, but not for individual ones, then feeding off a riser cupboard to each tenanted area.
2. The Water Risk Assessment
It’s a classic and needs to be in place – the way of formally noting what worst-case scenarios could exist, the consequences and harm from them, and then the action points to take to either limit or ideally eliminate these.
On one extreme, you may need a specialist one-off one by a qualified risk assessor, going into detail about water routes and issues.
But on the other extreme, with just straightforward modern flats-let, let’s say, you could make a more ‘DIY’ approach and document the main issues being checked and noted.
In fact, for residential lots, the main issue is clarifying in the tenancy, which does what checks, mainly when it's left vacant, rather than unnecessary new risk assessments for the sake of it.
The middle ground may well be water issues forming part of the central health and safety risk assessment for the property by the right competent person.
Whatever it takes, check what’s right, arrange the right person to do it, and then get things documented correctly.
3. Keeping Things Under Review
There’s good news and bad news when it comes to things being updated.
The bad is that it does need doing, roughly every year, and may require a new risk assessment etc., where needed.
The good news is that it doesn’t haven’t to be as complicated as you might think. Even the main Water Risk Assessment doesn’t even need re-doing for the sake of it – so long as nothing has changed and you’ve noted as so.
Whatever you’re doing, make sure you have a written note of this and the rationale behind it.
4. The Right People in Place
It would help if you made sure the right people were doing the right job.
The main ones will be a suitable contractor for the primary maintenance, checks, and repairs – the other a consultant or risk assessor for the initial risk assessment or audit afterwards. Make sure these are suitably qualified, experienced and vetted.
On a more practical level, there will be many day-to-day things like the tap-testing that any others can do, maybe a property manager or another contractor on a regular visit, or even an occupier or landlord.
Just make sure they’re clear on what they’re doing, have been shown how to do so correctly, and then document when each is done.
5. Weekly Tap Testing
A good bread-and-butter test for taps that don’t get used that often – turn them on for a few minutes to allow running water.
This is to stop water stagnating and increasing the risk of legionella.
Once you know which taps need doing, possibly different ones in rotation and more unusual ones like hidden cleaner’s sinks and shower points, make sure these are recorded okay.
You can click here to see our generic water temperature testing checklist.
6. Monthly Temperature Testing
The other mainstream check is the temperature of running water monthly for two purposes – firstly, to make sure cold water is cold enough, and secondly, that hot water is hot enough.
You’ll need a suitable thermometer to hold under each running tap and record these minimum and maximum levels, and as with tap-testing, make sure the right ones are included and documented.
To help keep these right, make sure the temperature settings on the boiler or heater are not tampered with without the go-ahead.
You can download a monthly temperature summary by clicking here.
7. The Dreaded De-Scaling
This can crop up with showerheads where limescale can build up over time.
Plus, you can see the build-up on taps in sinks over time that needs descaling.
A good dose of the suitable substance in water for them to soak in should do the trick (remember to record accordingly); otherwise, you might be able to disable such outlets to mean descaling is not needed.
8. Sampling & Chlorination
This is hardcore water treatment stuff now, and where specialists will need to explain what’s required.
The bare minimum for hot and cold water storage systems is an annual tank inspection, or six-monthly when providing drinking water.
However, two other forms taking matters further are taking samples of water and taking these to a lab for testing, then complete chlorination and basic clean-up of tanks, etc., where water is held (and Biocide treatments).
Whatever is needed, make sure you know the total cost adds up to overtime and that things don’t get too carried away. There may be ways to increase other checks not to need these, or even modifications to the systems over time, not even to require them.
9. Effective Communication
This applies to all areas of property management, and that’s making sure that everyone is transparent on what is needed.
It can mean basic warning signs onsite, dangerous hot water, and general high-risk storage areas.
Policies and procedures may need to be issued to occupiers and contractors and any specific requirements from particular Water Risk Assessments.
So even something as simple as reminding a tenant what to do and reporting any unusual-coloured water or temperatures to a landlord can help.
10. Practical Building Works
On a final point, don’t forget any project and maintenance works that are needed.
Classic ones are removing dead-legs in pipes that are now going nowhere and holding stagnant water to new installations such as immersion heaters and even separate electric water heaters.
This can also extend to even the type of material used in, say, Flexi pipes, with synthetic materials away from the metal being the ideal ones to reduce risk.
First, think outside the box as to what’s needed, and then plan accordingly, remembering that you may need to notify any other affected people afterwards.
Cleaning Up Your Act With Water Compliance
Whatever capacity you’re in – whether a managing agent with endless properties under your belt or an individual landlord doing the basics – these top 10 pointers will help focus on what you need to oversee to achieve water compliance at your property.
Plus, this can fall within all property types – typically mainstream commercial and residential, but all things in between.
The risk is genuine if you don’t, and although it can be very complicated at first sight, once you get the right people and procedures in place, it becomes an awful lot more accessible.
And if in doubt, then ask someone who knows. With a system in place, it’s easier to spot these bottle-neck problems and resolve them but still keep other things ticking over.
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