“Know your rights and responsibilities as a landlord regarding private water supplies“
Have you read The Scottish Government’s new private water regulations for landlords?
If not, you could be out of pocket—and breaking the law.
Proper private water supply maintenance is part and parcel of running an effective rural business. The not-so-new guidelines came into effect in 2017 but are frequently misinterpreted.
Do landlords need to test their private water supply? Can landlords conduct their own private water risk assessment? Does the law apply to people who only rent out one room in their home?
This comprehensive guide to private water supply regulations outlines everything landlords need to know about maintaining their private water supply in Scotland, keeping tenants happy and staying within the law.
Who do Scotland’s private water supply regulations apply to?
You may not think of yourself as a landlord but that doesn’t mean the 2017 private water supply regulations don’t apply to you.
The Scottish Government’s new regulations include private water supplies that:
- supply 50 or more people, or more than 10m3 of water a day
- form part of a commercial or public activity
- are used in a commercial or public activity (for example at village halls, in restaurants and hotels, or on campsites)
Under these regulations, privately rented properties are considered commercial premises.
This includes bed and breakfasts, Airbnbs and holiday lets. Even if you only rent a single room of your home on Airbnb the rules still apply.
So, what do you have to do?
Private water supply maintenance – what landlords must do
Landlords whose businesses operate on a private water supply must:
- Register their private water supply with the local council
- Inform their tenants they are using a private water supply
- Risk assess their water
- Undertake necessary remedial work found in the risk assessment
- It is the law that landlords undertake a Legionella risk assessment
Failure to register your private water supply with your local council is an offence.
Your local council’s website will give you details on how to register your supply. Be prepared to supply information about the following:
- your supply’s location
- the volume of water supplied and the number of people served by it
- who owns the land where the supply is installed
- the source of the water
- details of any treatments to the supply
- grants awarded to you for the supply
- details of previous risk assessments of the supply
- sampling results and an investigations into the supply
Your local authority may share the above information with other public bodies such as:
- the Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland
- the NHS
- other local councils
- the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)
- Scottish Ministers
Your local council has a duty to provide information about water quality to the above bodies or individuals if they request it.
None of your personal information will be shared. Only risk assessments, sampling results and information about the quality of your water supply will be shared.
Do landlords need to tell tenants that they’re using a private water supply?
Yes, your tenants have a right to know that they’re drinking from a private water supply. A private water supply agreement between you and your tenants will let everyone know where they stand.
You must also display a notice to let visitors, guests and staff know that they’re drinking water from a private supply.
Failure to do so might mean that guests or tenants can take legal action against you if they become ill from drinking the water.
What if my property’s water source and pipework is shared with others?
It’s a good idea to double check your title deeds to find out what pipework you’re responsible for, who needs access to pipes or tanks on your land and who is liable for repairs.
A private water supply agreement will state who can use a water source. While someone else may own the land where your water source is located, bear in mind that the landowner is not responsible for the water’s quality.
What if a water source and pipework are on my land?
Landowners can’t prevent people from accessing a private water supply and pipework for maintenance or repairs.
You will not have to pay for pipework maintenance or repairs unless otherwise stated in a private water agreement.
If you prevent people access to the private water supply and associated equipment you might be served a notice by your local council.
Private water supply risk assessment
A private water supply risk assessment checks the condition and quality of your water.
You want to make sure that your guests and tenants are drinking clean, wholesome water!
- assesses your supply’s source, and the surrounding area, to identify potential sources of contamination
- checks your storage tanks, any treatment systems and pipework
- tests the quality of your water
- Risk assesses your water supply
- Uses the information from your risk assessment suggest further action that will improve your water quality.
- must be risk assessed by your local council at least every 5 years, and your risk assessment must be kept up to date
- must have at least one sample taken by your local council annually to show that your supply is ‘wholesome’ and complies with the legislation (you may be charged for this)
- the number of water tests carried out on your supply during a year will depend on the number of people drinking from it. For example, a large estate with 10 rented cottages will be tested more often than a single cottage.
Do landlords have to pay for a private water supply risk assessment?
Your local council will charge for testing your private water.
If outlined in the tenancy agreement, you can pass this charge onto your tenant. If you own several cottages it’s not unusual to charge tenants a standard fee to use the private water supply.
Financial assistance of up to £800 per property is available without means testing. Further financial assistance may be available where an applicant can demonstrate that they would not be able to meet the costs of the improvements without incurring undue hardship.
Please note that grants can’t be issued retrospectively.
You will need to contact your local council to find out if you are eligible for a grant.
What will my water be tested for?
Your local council will test your water for:
- Harmful bacteria like Legionella
- Metals, such as copper and lead
How often should landlords test their private supply?
How often landlords need their water tested depends on the size of their business.
A person who rents one room of their home on Airbnb will need to test less often than a hotel with multiple guests and a more complex water system.
As a rule of thumb, private water supply maintenance should be viewed as an annual task.
When will I get my results from private water testing?
It can take up to 6 weeks to receive your results. This is because all private water samples must be sent to a UKAS accredited laboratory in order to comply with British Standards.
For those living in remote, rural areas such as the Highlands and Islands, test results may take longer.
My private water sample failed. Now what?
If a sample fails, don’t panic—your local council will work with you to find a solution.
You must let those using the supply know that the test has failed and to not drink from the private water supply. Use bottled water until a solution is found.
Next, double-check your water supply to identify any maintenance issues that might have resulted in a failed test. A clogged filter or tank that isn’t properly secure could be to blame. You can do this yourself if you are competent to do so, or you can contract a water company check you water supply’s maintenance is up to date.
After completing the above steps call your local council to re-test the water.
If you’re water is found to be contaminated you will be served an improvement notice.
An improvement notice should contain:
- the reasons why your local council is sure that your private water supply isn’t, wasn’t, or isn’t likely to be wholesome or sufficient
- the steps your local council consider are needed to make sure your supply is wholesome and sufficient
- the time period in which the steps have to be carried out
- There must be at least 14 for you to raise objections. And these 14 days should be separate to the amount of time you’ve been given to carry out the steps.
Your local council will give you support and advice so you can make sure your supply’s safe.
You must comply with this notice. As a landlord it’s then your responsibility to ensure that your private water supply is hygienic and safe for people to drink.
Your council will work with you and offer advice to help you meet the necessary standards.
Private water supplies guidance for landlords
Please check the following resources for more information about private rights and responsibilities as a landlords:
- Scottish Government website – for up to date rules and regulations that apply to landlords and private water supplies
- Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland – checks that local authorities are regulating private water supplies in their area and offers guidance and annual reports
- Citizen’s Advice Scotland – for advice on how to apply for a grant to improve the quality of your private water supply
- Scottish Association of Landlords – provides support for landlords and letting agents in Scotland
Private water supply Scotland
To contact your local council for private water supplies guidance please select your area from the list below:
- Glasgow City
- City of Edinburgh
- North Lanarkshire
- South Lanarkshire
- Aberdeenshire Council
- Aberdeen City
- West Lothian
- Perth and Kinross Council
- Dumfries and Galloway
- Dundee City
- North Ayrshire
- East Ayrshire
- Scottish Borders Council
- South Ayrshire
- East Dunbartonshire
- East Lothian
- East Renfrewshire
- West Dunbartonshire
- Argyll and Bute
- Na h-Eileanan Siar (Western Isles)
Landlords Private Water Supply Frequently Asked Questions
Who is responsible for a private water supply?
The 2017 regulations state that landlords are responsible for risk assessing the condition of their private water supply and maintaining healthy standards.
What does a private supply mean in Scotland?
A private water supply is any property that is not served by Scottish Water. Private water supplies may take water from a spring, borehole or other natural source
How often should a private water supply be tested?
Landlords should have their private water supply tested annually but the local council may deem a water source unpredictable and test as often as every 3 months. The more people your private water supply serves the more frequently it will need tested.
What is a water risk assessment?
A water risk assessment will assesses your supply’s source, and the surrounding area, to identify potential sources of contamination. This includes checking your storage tanks, any treatment systems and pipework and testing the quality of your water.
Are private water supplies safe?
Private water supplies are safe to drink from providing they are well regulated. If you rent or are staying in a property on a private supply ask the landlord for up to date evidence of risk assessments and testing. There should also be a notice within the property informing you that the water comes from a private supply.
Can a private water supply be cut off?
On a private water supply you might run low or run out of water completely. Scottish Water can provide you with water in such emergencies and you’ll have to arrange this with your local council. If you think something is wrong with your current supply don’t drink the water. Use bottled water and wait until a professional has identified the source of the problem.