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Litigation

Japanese Knotweed – Tying up the value of your property in ‘knots’

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Bank holiday weekend is approaching and the majority of us will be looking forward to lazy sunny afternoons in the garden; barbeques with a cold beverage, or two, after another hectic week at work. But would you know what to do if you saw this plant lurking in your flower beds or encroaching upon your boundaries?

This is Japanese Knotweed. It’s prevalent this time of year and if you do see it don’t be tempted to remove it yourself. It is a highly invasive plant that is classified as controlled waste under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. It is an offence to fly-tip it or even place it in municipal refuse centres, so don’t put it in with your garden waste to be taken away by your local Council.

Why? Well, this innocuous-looking plant can:

  • Cause damage to your property
  • Detrimentally affect the value of your property and any potential sale or purchase
  • Give rise to a legal dispute(s) with neighbours.

Damage to property

If Japanese Knotweed grows close to a property building, retaining/garden wall, fence or garden building the underground roots can damage these structures.  They can push up through tarmac on drives and paved areas. In their search for moisture, Japanese Knotweed roots can interfere with drainage pipes and other structures, blocking and sometimes lifting pipework and clogging sumps and drainage pits. It can even block the drains and in worst-case scenarios result in the drains having to be renewed.

Selling/buying property

It is a seller’s responsibility to check the property’s garden/boundaries for Japanese Knotweed (bearing in mind it can die back in winter). If the presence of Japanese Knotweed is known to the seller they MUST declare this on the Property Information Form (TA6) and provide a management plan for its eradication by a professional company.

If a buyer is notified or becomes aware of Japanese Knotweed, a mortgage lender will want assurances that it will be eradicated prior to agreeing on funds.

Failure to disclose Japanese Knotweed will therefore often lead to delays in the conveyancing process, increased costs; diminution in value of the property or even a possible misrepresentation claim by a buyer against the seller following completion of the sale.

It must be stressed, however, that it is not illegal to have Japanese Knotweed in your garden but you MUST control it.

A recent Court of Appeal case has identified that the owner of private land (in this case British Rail) was liable for Japanese Knotweed invading neighbouring properties.

Litigation/disputes with neighbours

Due to the specific invasive nature of this plant, it must be eradicated by a professional contractor which can take several rounds of treatment over a sustained period of time at significant cost. If the infestation is attributable to your property then your neighbours may well seek to pursue a claim against you for the costs and, vice versa.

If you have any concerns relating to Japanese Knotweed, please contact Claire Farrell Head of Litigation at Samuel Phillips Law on 0191 232 8451 or clairefarrell@samuelphillips.co.uk.

(*please do not bring samples into the office)

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.

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