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 hitting the public eye, and therefore becoming a more important factor to consider in effective property management.
The problem is that it can seem quite complicated, just like, say, asbestos plans and fire risk assessments. But as a property manager this doesn’t need to be the case.
Once you have the right contractors, procedures, and checks in place then 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, along with some check lists where needed. Get these 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 one then 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 do a more ‘DIY’ approach and document the main issues being checked and noted.
The middle ground may well be water issues forming part of the main health and safety risk assessment for the property being done 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 required.
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, just make sure you have a written note of this and the rationale behind it.
4. The Right People in Place
You need to make sure the right people are doing the right job.
The main ones will be a suitable contractor for the main 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 a lot of 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 correctly do so, and then document when each one is done.
5. Weekly Tap Testing
A good bread-and-butter test for taps that don’t get used that often – just 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, then just 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 the right 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 things like shower heads where things like limescale can build up over time.
A good dose of the right 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 needed.
Two popular forms are taking samples of water and taking these to a lab for testing, and the other a form of chlorination of tanks etc where water is held.
Whatever is needed, just make sure you know what the total cost adds up to over time, and that things don’t get too carried away. There may be ways to increase other checks to not need these, or even modifications to the systems over time to not even require them.
9. Effective Communication
This is applicable of course to all areas of property management, and that’s making sure that everyone is clear on what is needed.
It can means basic warning signs onsite to dangerous hot water, to general high-risk storage areas.
Policies and procedures may need issuing to occupiers and contractors, and any additional requirements from, say, a disability audit referring to.
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 which are basically old pipes now going nowhere and therefore holding stagnant water, to new installations such as immersion heaters and even separate electric water heaters.
First think outside the box as to what’s needed, and then plan ahead accordingly, remembering that you may need to notify afterwards any other affected people.
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 to focus on what you need to oversee to achieve water compliance at your property.
Plus this can fall within all property types as well – typically main-stream commercial and residential, but all things in between as well.
The risk is very real if you don’t, and although it can be very complicated at first sight, once you get the right people and procedures in place then it becomes an awful lot easier.
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, but still keep other things ticking over.
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