Japanese Knotweed – A Legal Viewpoint
The plant that all home owners dread to find on their property, Japanese Knotweed has caused numerous property transactions to fall through due to the reluctance of lenders to provide mortgages on properties that are affecting by it. But why is it such a problem?
What is Japanese Knotweed?
Japanese Knotweed was brought to Britain in the 19th century as an ornamental plant but opinions changed due to its ability to spread rapidly. Not only will Japanese Knotweed take over a garden, it will exploit any weaknesses in the formation and break through cracks in mortar, expansion joints in concrete, splits in drains and joins in paving, causing damage to properties.
It is particularly rampant in South Wales and in particular along waterways, railways and on many brownfield sites.
What to do if you have Japanese Knotweed on your land?
There are several methods that can be found on the internet which claim to eradicate knotweed. However, we would always advise that you contact a specialist whose expert knowledge will help them determine the best way to eradicate the plant.
Knotweed on Neighbouring Land
Although there is no duty on land owners to eradicate Japanese Knotweed, there is a duty to stop knotweed spreading. If invasive weeds are allowed to spread and can be proved to be having a detrimental effect on others, it would be classed as a private nuisance and the land owner could be prosecuted under civil law, resulting in financial penalties.
The owner of the adjoining land must be given the opportunity to deal with the knotweed. It is therefore important that you put your neighbour on notice in writing as soon as you become aware of encroachment of knotweed.
In these circumstances, you should ask your neighbour to effectively treat the knotweed not only on their land and the remedial action they choose should include a suitable guarantee.
If the owner of the neighbouring property is then not forthcoming, we would advise that you report the same to the Local Authority who will then be able to take action.
Selling a Property with Japanese Knotweed
When you come to sell a property affected by Japanese Knotweed, problems will especially occur when a prospective purchaser is buying the property with the aid of a mortgage. Although every mortgage lender has different requirements when it comes to lending on a property affected by knotweed, it is commonplace that they will require a management plan to be in place, which is backed by an insurance backed guarantee. Therefore, it is always advisable to instruct a knotweed expert before the property is placed on the market.
Sellers are also under a duty to disclose to their purchasers if there is Japanese Knotweed growing on their property. The issue has become so prevalent in recent years that the Law Society inserted a standard question into their Property Information Form regarding Japanese Knotweed. In the form, the Seller has to declare if their property has been affected by Japanese knotweed. Since a property sale is a legal transaction, correctly advising buyers will avoid the legal action that often follows from a false declaration.
If you plan to sell a property that is affected by Japanese knotweed, please contact our property team who will be able to advise you further.