There is nothing quite as dull as dishwater but when said dishwater is within a private rented property and it might contain lead, it becomes a lot worse than dull and can become considerably more costly for a Scottish landlord.

Private rented properties are, as we all know, heavily regulated and in addition to all other requirements expected to be adhered to, all private landlords must ensure that their properties are served by a water supply system that is in a "reasonable state of repair and in proper working order" in accordance with the Repairing Standard under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006. The Repairing Standard was updated in 2019 and one of the key changes to note is the tighter controls on lead present within drinking water which come into force on 1 March 2024.

Lead is more likely to be present in properties built prior to 1970 and also when there is lead within the pipes and fittings carrying the water to the property or present within any tanks storing such water. The World Health Organisation has declared that no amount of lead is safe to consume however the current acceptable level according to the water quality regulations is 10 micrograms  per litre of water. This level is being reduced to 5 micrograms per litre of water by 2036 and therefore the updated Repairing Standard has been introduced to aid this reduction. The update also brings the private rented sector in line with the requirements placed on the social housing sector.

From 1 March 2024, there should be no lead present from the boundary stopcock of a private rented property to the kitchen tap. This includes all drinking water outlets, all pipework to such outlets, any storage tanks within the property and any storage tanks within the attic or roof space including any that are shared. Landlords should therefore be removing and replacing any pipes and other apparatus that contain lead to meet the updated Repairing Standard timeously. Scottish Water are responsible for replacing any parts of their apparatus that contain lead and this usually includes the communication pipe between the water main and the boundary stopcock.

It is recommended that in order to comply with the Repairing Standard by the enforcement date, landlords should undertake or organise visual checks of any pipework or associated apparatus and arrange lead testing if appropriate or if they have concerns. In any event, if they are uncertain as to the presence of lead or are aware of the possibility lead may form part of the system, their tenant must be notified and tests carried out.

There may be instances where pipework and the like are shared with other owners (in a tenement building for example or in relation to a private water supply system than serves multiple properties) where replacement would require consent from a third party. All apparatus that contains lead must be removed and replaced so as to comply with the Repairing Standard, however, if reasonable steps have been taken and no consent from third parties is forthcoming, then the private landlord will not be at fault for the failure to do so.

Most private landlords will be aware of the requirements imposed on them in relation to removing lead from the water supplies to their rented properties so will have already put a plan in place to deal with testing and, where necessary, replacement. If not, it is something to consider now as the 1 March 2024 deadline is fast approaching.


Sophie Noble

Senior Associate