Annex D1 - Installations for the supply of water
D.4 Private landlords must be satisfied that any house they rent to tenants has an adequate piped supply of wholesome drinking water within the house. There must be a sink with a satisfactory supply of both hot and cold water, a water closet or waterless closet available for the exclusive use of the occupants of the house. It must have a fixed bath or shower and a wash-hand basin, each provided with a satisfactory supply of both hot and cold water and the house must have an effective system for the drainage and disposal of foul and surface water. They must also ensure that any pipes supplying water for human consumption are in good condition and safe to use.
D.5 This annex identifies the issues private landlords must consider when assessing if the property has a satisfactory and adequate supply of both hot and wholesome cold drinking water. It looks at:
- Different types of water supply
- Unwholesome water
- Lead in drinking water
- Adequate supply
Different types of water supply
D.6 There are two types of water supply in Scotland, public and private. The vast majority of houses in Scotland are connected to the public supply, but approximately 4% of the population are serviced by a private water supply. The risk of water being unwholesome is significantly higher for private water supplies. They are much more likely than public supplies to have several other possible contaminants (such as chemicals and micro-organisms) that may affect the wholesomeness of the drinking water which can put at risk the health of those using the supply.
D.7 Local authority environmental health departments hold a register of all properties in their area served by a private water supply.
(1) Public water supplies
D.8 Scottish Water monitors the quality of public water supplies, and is responsible for ensuring that water is wholesome to the consumer's tap, usually taken to be the kitchen tap. Scottish Water is responsible for the condition of the communication pipe up to the boundary stopcock. Scottish Water will determine whether any failure of the standard is attributable to the general water supply and water mains network or a specific property issue. Private landlords are responsible for the water supply system from the boundary stopcock, and all pipework within the dwelling. This will include a duty to replace any lead piping in this part of the system.
(2) Private water supplies
D.9 Because of the risk that a private water supply is unwholesome it is necessary to test water to ensure that it complies with the Tolerable Standard. The assessment must be undertaken before a tenancy begins and on an annual basis thereafter. The local authority is responsible for this annual testing although they can pass the cost on to the landlord; see If you're a landlord, tenant or run a business or public activity - mygov.scot.
D.10 If at any time during the tenancy, a private landlord has doubts about the water quality or suspects that the water supply to the house is unwholesome, the tenants should be immediately informed and the supply should be tested without delay.
D.11 The Drinking Water Quality Regulator ensures that Scottish Water achieves the specified standards for water quality. For more information on the public water supply, Scottish Water and the Drinking Water Quality Regulator, see: Home - Scottish Water and Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland
D.12 Water supplied for domestic purposes must not contain any microorganism or any substance at a concentration or value which would constitute a potential danger to human health. The minimum levels of contamination are specified in Schedule 1 of the Water Supply (Water Quality) (Scotland) Regulations 2001.
D.13 An unusual colour or odour can be an indicator of a problem with water quality and could indicate that the water may not be wholesome, in which case further investigation will be required.
Water can be naturally brownish in appearance depending on its source. Water may look white or cloudy, this is normally a result of dissolved air within the system and when left to stand will become clear. Neither of these necessarily indicates that the water is unwholesome.
Water will occasionally smell of chlorine, this is a normal effect of the treatment process and not an indicator that the water is not wholesome.
D.14 Laboratory analysis is the only way to determine conclusively if a supply of water is wholesome at the kitchen tap. Laboratory analysis must be carried out in the following circumstances:
- if the water comes from a private water supply
- there are lead pipes which it is not possible to remove or replace.
Environmental health officials can provide advice on laboratory analysis of drinking water.
D.15 Some flats within tenement and multi-storey blocks receive their drinking water supply from a storage tank at the top of the building. The tank must be checked to ensure it is covered, vented and maintained, and if there are any grounds for concern a laboratory analysis of the water must be carried out.
D.16 If laboratory analysis concludes that the water is not wholesome, then the house does not meet the requirements of Tolerable Standard or the Repairing Standard.
D.17 Additional guidance on assessing water quality is available. For public water supply at Home - Scottish Water and for Private water Supplies at Private Water Supplies | DWQR and Private water supplies - mygov.scot.
Lead in drinking water
D.18 The main water quality issue in Scotland relates to lead and can arise if there are lead materials or plumbing present in the domestic distribution system. The main cause of lead in drinking water is lead pipes leading up to or within the house and is more common in houses built before 1970 that have not had their pipes, tanks or fittings replaced
D.19 Water quality regulations set a maximum permitted level of lead in drinking water at 10 micrograms per litre of water. A new standard of 5 micrograms per litre will be required to be met by 2036. However, the World Health Organisation states that there is no safe level for lead in drinking water.
D.20 Lead pipes and lead lined storage tanks or fittings should not be present in the water supply of any privately rented property from the boundary stopcock to the kitchen tap. This includes:
- Drinking water outlets;
- Pipework to drinking water outlets;
- Water storage tanks within the dwelling; and
- Water storage tanks in the loft space, including any common storage tanks located in tank rooms or in the roof space;
D.21 Occasionally, poor quality metal alloy pipe fittings and taps are found to cause failure of the lead standard.
D.22 Unless the landlord is unable to replace the pipes, due to lack of consent from other owners, lead pipes and tanks must be removed to comply with the Repairing Standard.
D.23 Private landlords must check visible pipework within the house to assess whether the supply runs through lead pipes. The absence of visible lead pipes does not guarantee that the water is not contaminated with lead. Other sources of lead include pipes hidden from view, lead solder, lead water tanks, and underground lead supply pipes from the boundary stopcock.
D.24 If a landlord is uncertain whether there are lead pipes, or is aware of a risk, tenants must be informed and a water sample must be taken for laboratory analysis. Water should be tested at all outlets where water may be consumed as lead may be present anywhere in the building's plumbing. Samples should be taken to present a worst case scenario, ideally at a time where no water has been used for at least half an hour. The presence of lead of about 3 micrograms per litre indicates that some lead is present in the plumbing.
D.25 Where work is undertaken to remove lead piping, the property should be resampled to confirm that all lead has been removed.
D.26 A small amount of lead piping may be Scottish Water's responsibility. This is the communication pipe, which connects the property's supply pipe from the property boundary to the water main. If a property owner replaces all their lead piping, they can request that Scottish Water replace the communication pipe if it is made of lead. Scottish Water have an obligation to do this.
D.27 More information on lead in drinking water is available from the Drinking Water Quality Regulator at Lead in drinking water |Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland | DWQR, and from Scottish Water at Lead pipe replacement guide.
D.28 Private landlords have a duty to carry out a risk assessment of hot and cold water systems for legionnaire's disease to minimise the risk of tenants being exposed to legionella. This requirement stems from the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1989 and the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which makes provision for the legislation to apply to landlords of domestic premises.
D.29 All water systems must be assessed for legionella risk, and private landlords must ensure this is carried out before the property is first let. The risk assessment should then be regularly reviewed at intervals of no more than two years. If a review of the risk assessment indicates that there has been a change to the risk factors then a new risk assessment should be carried out. Depending on the system in the property, private landlords may be able to carry this assessment out themselves, or it might be necessary to employ a competent assessor to do it.
D.30 In most residential settings, a simple assessment may show that the risks are low and no further action may be necessary. An example of a typical lower risk situation may be found in a house where:
- daily water usage is inevitable and sufficient to turn over the entire system;
- cold water is directly from a wholesome mains supply (no stored water tanks);
- hot water is fed from instantaneous heaters or low volume water heaters (supplying outlets at 50 °C); and
- where the only outlets are toilets and wash hand basins.
D.31 If the assessment shows the risks are low and are being properly managed, the private landlord need take no further action but it is important that the assessment is reviewed regularly in case anything changes in the system.
D.32 To help control the risk of exposure to legionella landlords must:
- Flush out the system prior to letting the property, if this has not been done within the previous two years;
- Avoid debris getting into the system by ensuring the cold water tanks, where fitted, have a tight fitting lid;
- Set control parameters where water is stored in the hot water tank at least 60°C; and
- Make sure any redundant pipework and dead ends are identified and removed.
D.33 Private landlords must advise tenants of control measures put in place and of their responsibility to help ensure they are maintained. Tenants must be advised:
- Not to adjust the temperature setting of the hot water tank;
- To regularly clean and disinfect showerheads; and
- Inform the landlord if the hot water is not heating properly or if there are any other problems with the system.
D.34 In situations where a privately let property is vacant for an extended period, steps must be taken to ensure water is not allowed to stagnate within the water system, by a suitable flushing regime or other measures such as draining the system.
D.35 More detailed information on what the law does and does not require of private landlords in relation to Legionella control, can be found on the landlord's responsibilities page on the Health and Safety Executive website.
D.36 In order to comply with the Repairing Standard the water supply in any property rented to a tenants must satisfy three conditions: availability, adequacy and continuity.
D.37 Wholesome water should be available to the tenants from at least one tap inside the house. In private rented properties, this will normally be located at the kitchen sink. If in extraordinary circumstances it is located elsewhere, private landlords should ensure their tenants know where the source of wholesome water is located in the house.
D.38 An adequate supply of water means that the tenant has access to a reasonable quantity of water within a reasonable time. A cold water supply must be sufficient to provide seven litres of cold water per minute at a reasonable pressure. The principle area in which the adequacy of supply is at issue is in relation to the supply of hot water for washing and cleaning. The water supply must be sufficient to allow a tenant to obtain:
- Where the house has a shower, a continuous supply of seven litres of hot water per minute for at least 10 minutes;
- Where the house has a bath, a continuous supply of seven litres of hot water per minute in a sufficient quantity to fill the bath; and
- Where the supply is from a hot water tank, capacity to re-heat the water in the tank to provide hot water for a shower or bath, within a period of one hour.
D.39 Breaks in supply are most often an issue for private water supplies. Dry periods in the summer can leave houses without water because the source has dried up. Where a private landlord is aware that the supply is regularly interrupted for significant periods the house will be non-compliant with the Repairing Standard. This does not apply if the interruption is due to maintenance or repair works which temporarily interrupt the public water supply.
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