Addressing the Concerns of Lead Pipes in Scottish Homes

In this article, we will explore the risks posed by lead pipes, guidelines for testing water quality, and steps landlords and owners can take to address the issue.

Please note, at the end of this article I have provided information relating to yet more legislation put in place by the Scottish Government.

Residential Landlords in Scotland

You as the Landlord are solely responsible for checking if there are lead pipes present in your rental property.  Most properties predating 1970 will have lead pipes present.  The potential health risks associated with lead exposure, especially for unborn babies and young children, underscore the importance of proactive measures to ensure the safety of drinking water.

The Scottish government have advised that landlords only need to test for the presence of lead at any outlets between the boundary stopcock and the kitchen tap. A test result of a minimum of 10 micrograms or more per litre indicates that some lead is present in the plumbing. Landlords should then identify the location of lead pipes and arrange for any found between the boundary stopcock and the kitchen tap to be replaced.


The only outlet which needs to be tested for lead is the kitchen tap. This overrides previous guidance to also test outlets at the bath, basin and utility room. These outlets would only need to be tested if they are located between the boundary stopcock and the kitchen tap.

The Risks of Lead Exposure

Lead, when present in drinking water, can pose serious health risks, particularly for developing fetuses and young children. Even low levels of exposure can lead to developmental delays, learning difficulties, and behavioral problems. It is crucial to recognise the potential hazards associated with lead pipes and take preventive steps to mitigate these risks.

Testing Water Quality

To determine if lead is present in your drinking water, it is advisable to have the water in your property tested. Scottish Water offers a free water sampling service to assess lead levels, providing valuable information to residents about the safety of their water supply.

Recommended Actions for Properties with Lead Pipes

  1. Consult a Plumber: If lead pipes are identified, the first step is to consult a plumber. A professional plumber can assess the extent of lead piping in your property and recommend appropriate measures for replacement.
  2. Contact Scottish Water: Reach out to Scottish Water for guidance on the water main and service pipe to your home. Their expertise can help determine the source of lead contamination and provide insights into potential solutions.
  3. Use Cold Water for Drinking and Cooking: To minimize lead exposure, limit the use of hot water for drinking and cooking. Hot water dissolves more lead than cold water, making the kitchen cold tap the safest option for these activities.
  4. Avoid Using Hot Water for Formulas: Never use hot water for preparing infant formulas, as this increases the risk of lead exposure. Stick to cold water from the kitchen tap for mixing formulas.
  5. Flush Pipes Before Use: Run the kitchen tap for a few minutes before using the water, especially if it has been standing in the pipes for an extended period. This is particularly important in the morning or after the water has been stagnant for a while.
  6. Boiling Water Does Not Remove Lead: Contrary to popular belief, boiling water does not eliminate lead. It is essential to focus on preventing lead exposure through other means, such as replacing lead pipes.

Homeowners in Scotland

Homeowners are responsible for the supply pipes which are from the stopcock, typically found at the boundary of your property and all of the indoor plumbing.   If you have lead pipes present in your home, it is up to you to decide whether you want to replace the pipes or not. The water test results will provide you with the level of lead present, and if a high reading is given, the company producing the report will suggest what you should do next.  Any health and safety risk will mean that replacing your pipes in the recommendation.

A diagram showing responsibility boundaries is shown on the Scottish Water website below:

For homeowners with properties dating back to before 1970, it is recommended to test your water if lead pipes are suspected. The recommended action is to have the water tested by Scottish Water or other certified testing services. If lead concentrations surpass the recommended safety levels, homeowners should seriously consider replacing lead pipes to safeguard the well-being of their household. Regular testing and proactive measures can prevent potential health risks associated with lead exposure, ensuring a safe and healthy living environment.

Lead pipes in properties in Scotland demand attention and proactive measures to protect the health of residents, particularly vulnerable populations like unborn babies and young children.

By following the recommended actions, consulting professionals, and utilising the free water sampling service provided by Scottish Water, landlords and homeowners can work together to ensure the safety of their drinking water.

Remember, taking early steps to address lead pipe concerns is an investment in the long-term well-being of all occupants in rental properties.

Repairing Standards – to be met by March 2024

A change to the Repairing Standards.  Annex D1 – installations for the water supply.  See link below. For ease of reference, click the link below and scroll to D18, lead in drinking water.

Your letting agent should keep you right with any new legislation which allows you time to meet the new standards.  If any self-managed landlord requires some guidance or advice, I would be happy to hear from you.  Drop me an email or give me a call on +44 1382 540545.

I hope you have found this article useful.  Thanks for reading 🙂

Nykky, Director @ brikk haus 

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