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Legionella Risk Assessment For Dummies

Landlords scammed by sharp practices

Published on 01 June 2014

Discover the World Of Judaica

by Lawrence Perry


London, England

I own a small studio flat in one of the urban towns in South East England, and I was informed by my lettings agents that I had to have a Legionella Risk Assessment in compliance with the HSE.

On the 25th March 2014 I received this email:

"I am sorry to have to bring yet another safety check to your attention, however there have been further changes in leglislation under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) and as a landlord in control of private rented properties, you are required by law to protect your tenants against the risk of contracting legionnaires disease.

The recent changes in the regulations have brought domestic properties under the same umbrella as commercial properties which means that landlords of rented properties are now required to comply with this law.

We have retained a company who will undertake the risk assessment at a cost of £97.50 in the first year and £80.75 in subsequent years. They are called AquaB. You can take a look at their services on http://www.aquabgroup.com They are going to roll out the risk assessments from the end of March 2014. I enclose details below of the check and what is involved".

As a landlord I was forced to comply, particularly since I had given these letting agents full management of the property.

On the 28th April 2014 I received the following email:

"We have received confirmation from John Butterworth at AquaB that the Legionella Risk Assessment has been completed at the above named property.

Once we have received the certificate - which is produced after the water sample findings are returned from the Laboratory I will let you know. The cost for the Legionella Risk Assessment is £97.50, Plus VAT. The invoice will be deducted from the next rental account".

On the 12th May 2014 I received the following email from my letting agents:

Immediate Action Required

Following examination of the Legionella Risk Assessment and laboratory water sample analysis undertaken at the property, AquaB Group considers there is a real risk to health from high levels of Legionella found in the water system within the meaning set ot in ACoP L8, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (as amended) and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.

Now the studio that I had only consisted of a Combi Boiler in the Kitchen and three hot water taps and three cold water taps, and I had no stored water on the premises.

I had to pay between £150 - £250 (+vat) for the reassessment, and that was carried out on 22nd May 2014. I met the risk assessor at the studio. I recorded the conversation on my iPhone which is on the accompanying pod cast affixed to this blog.

I interviewed John Butterworth. http://quick.catchfriday.com/?ci=23323

"I'll just talk you through what I have done so far.....I put the shower head in there and two to three tablets in there as we have to do them until i leave - then what I have done taken a note of the temperature at what it was - we run the hot water at maximum and the cistern will get killed off and we run it for at least two minutes and build up the temperature for at least 2 minutes on - I've run the cold through as well for at least two minutes - I've done all the cold and the hot..."

(he appeared to be very knowledgeable and assertive about it all - and on looking there was a plastic bag for of water in the bathroom sink - the tap on the bath was full on with hot water coming out of it). He had his laptop on which showed a stopwatch on it counting down - this was certainly the Real Mccoy! He took photographs of the taps).

I asked him why the plates showed too much bacteria on the plates. He told me that the same day he identified mine he had another two that failed - one just like mine with an overgrown plate - that they cannot identify Legionella".

Now I wonder what the chances of three properties failing on the same day were? Sounds very strange doesn't it... No doubt Aqua B are on the way to pushing up their compliance officer's income to the suggested £75000 a year salary boasted on their web site.

I told him that when I bought the Studio it looked new, and he said that it's not really relevant - He said, "It's not about storing water the Water Board are allowed to send over fifty different strands of bacteria - so what we do with the risk assessment is we check that your cold is cold enough and your hot is hot enough as it should be, and when we get this it shows that there is a problem somewhere - there's no dead legs in here that I've checked - this cleanses the whole system, and then we'll take a sample from every hot tab'.

I spoke to Katie Todd, the Water Quality Liaison Scientist at Anglican Water, who told me that his statement was not true. Indeed Anglican Water state:

Water that’s cleaned to the highest standard, delivered to millions of homes, and managed carefully to ensure it never runs out. It’s not an aspiration – it’s just how we do business, all day, every day. Whether it’s working with businesses or planning 50 years ahead, there’s a lot more goes into a glass of water than you think.

Could John Butterworth or Aqua B be wrong? Surely not possible John is a trained Aqua B expert.

I asked John Butterworth what Aqua B was - and he replied,

"they started about 2 to 3 years ago and were actually Estate Agents / Letting Agents in Nottingham and started this because they realised where the market was going to go, and they devised this programme to keep the costs down as they're landlords as well. He told me that they doing it in bulk to letting agents, as a one off risk assessment was £235. They've gone into the market to get people like myself involved, and I've set my own LTM company up in this area.

Agua B state on their web site:

AquaB Group provides the only fully compliant risk assessment and certification service nationally for the control of legionella bacteria who specialise solely in the domestic market

A load of marketing tosh as there are other companies doing it better for cheaper.

I asked John Butterworth if he was a trained surveyor or something and he said

" I've done three exams online to do this and I've got the certificates, and you have to pass it off your own back before these guys will even entertain talking to you. Then there's at least two weeks field training for everybody who does this - and I've also had three days in classroom. In terms of the laboratory side of it I have no idea - samples go back to my office and everyday I have a collection, they take them to the lab and they're given the ideal conditions to grow - it takes about ten days to be given the definitive result".

John is definitely an expert and a compliance officer for Aqua B on his way to making an income of £75,000 a year as boasted on the Aqua B website - I wonder if failing a few properties along the way would boost his income and possibly that of the letting agents?

So how many properties do you do a day?

"Who me about nine or ten a day".

So how many fail a day?

"We are currently averaging about six or seven percent. Last summer that went up to eleven percent. I suspect that because of the warm weather it was potentially warm water that was stored that got warmer. We're waiting after this summer to see if it was a blip - or it did go drastically through the roof - we're waiting to go through a few summers before we can make anything of it".

He told me that he is giving a presentation about this in the summer to landlords and landladies, and though he still gets some blank looks about it, there is now a lot of information on the internet about it, and the HSE give information. I had a look at Aqua B's website

Operating in a multimillion pound industry, both landlords and letting agents now fall under revised compliance requirements as laid down by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

AquaB is the fastest growing service provider in this market sector with a unique model of support for its partners, through database driven technology and its network of Testing facilities throughout the UK.

Opportunities are available to join our national network of associate partners and specialists in the field. as a local compliance officer, you will play an integral role in this growing sector with full support and without the burden of administration and associated paperwork.

They are obviously franchising out this unique service...

There are no entry costs to join the Group. You have the potential of developing and growing a scalable and sustainable business with robust high earning capacity.

Attract repeat long-term contracts through an attractive low-cost unit price. Establish yourself as one of the regional experts in this sector. Set the level of your income from £75,000pa increasing significantly. There genuinely are no limits. Be the first to market in your area

I understand more clearly now John is a salesman, probably much more than an expert in Legionella Risk Assessment, but he had me fooled with the laptop, the stop watch and the photographs, and his training expertise!

On Aqua B's blog

When you're a landlord, you have certain legal obligations that you must fulfil. One of these obligations is to protect your tenants against the risk of contracting Legionnaires Disease. All landlords and letting agents who are in control of a rented property are now required by the HSE to carry out a risk assessment in order to identify the presence of legionella bacteria. It's important to note that this isn't optional – it's mandatory, and failure to comply could land you in hot water with the HSE. Act now to make sure that you're complying with the law

John Butterworth has very impressive certificates from his online training on his linkedin profile from Legionella Control:

The online training costs £165 to do three modules:

LC1 The History of Legionellosis - This is the first of our three compulsory training modules and covers a number of fundamental issues that will help to develop a sound basis for further study of issues concerning the control of legionella.

LC2 Risk Assessment and Management Control - This is the second of our three compulsory training modules and builds on those subjects covered in module LC1. This course deals with legionella risk assessment and management control procedures.

LC3 Control of Legionella in Hot and Cold Water Systems - The problem I have is with Aqua B's claims particularly towards my studio Flat: AquaB Group considers there is a real risk to health from high levels of Legionella found in the water system.

This is utter tosh and every bit a scam because there compliance officer has stated in this podcast that the studio has a very minimal or non-existent chance of chance of getting Legionella in it's system.

If John Butterworth's opinion is correct and he has been trained properly then perhaps the failure is at the lab and John is completely innocent - could Aqua B be exploiting landlords?

My tenants told me that they were now boiling the water before drinking it - honestly I have to think that this is madness gone wrong, particularly as the Compliance Officer said that the second time round everyone passes. They further suggested that they had a tummy bug no doubt caused by the water supply!

Landlords are sitting target for unscrupulous companies like Aqua B, but should they put up with these cowboys?

I shall be sending this expose through to BBC Panorama.

In researching this topic I contacted another company who carry out the risk assessments and though they did not want to be named in this article, they told me that they supply landlords with a specimen bottle to take water from their taps and send it to them for testing - this costs £50 only and the landlord receives a certificate.  They felt that Aqua B's approach was more to producing more sales. 

Lawrence Perry is a registered journalist with the WireNews+Co press card scheme and an RGN and District Nurse, with a Bsc (hons) in Community Health from London South Bank University. He has recently studied Community Journalism at Cardiff University.


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Posted 2014-06-01 22:57:00