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The question of Japanese Knotweed

One of the standard enquiry forms that any seller completes on a property sale has been changed to include a range of new questions. One of these questions is a specific one about whether the property is affected by Japanese Knotweed.

This weed was introduced as an ornamental plant by the Victorians. Unfortunately, it is very invasive, spreads very quickly and will grow and thrive in pretty much any soil type. It can remain dormant in soil for a number of years and only a small part of the plant remaining can lead to re-growth and spread.

Japanese Knotweed can potentially damage buildings, although is unlikely to cause structural problems in houses, and block pipes. It is difficult to get rid of and can also be expensive to remove. Treatment consists of repeated chemical treatments carried out over a number of years.

A homeowner looking to sell or a potential buyer of a property will need to consider their potential legal liability and any issues that might arise with any lender or insurer. Potentially liability can be civil or criminal under various statutes. There is in fact no general obligation to remove Japanese Knotweed but unless you take measures to control it and prevent it from spreading, it can cause a liability.

If you have Japanese Knotweed on your land and it spreads to neighbouring land, you could be responsible for paying compensation on the basis that this causes a common law or statutory nuisance. Both the Environment Agency and The Property Care Association have published guidance on how to deal with Japanese Knotweed.

Regarding lenders’ requirements, currently lenders are not taking a uniform response but there does appear to be a general reluctance to lend on properties that are affected. Some lenders are looking at each case individually while others are not lending at all. Each case will therefore need to be discussed before proceeding. You should ensure that any surveyor instructed to survey the property has experience of Japanese Knotweed and has been specifically instructed to look for this.

Effective control can minimise the plant’s impact and a possible solution for the future could perhaps be to establish a standard management plan that is acceptable to lenders and the industry in general so as to minimise the impact on the value of the property and people’s ability to buy and sell property that is affected.

For further information about our property law services in Taunton please contact Helen Jones on 01823 362876 or

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