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Legal News | 12.06.24

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed - Residential Property - Wansbroughs LLP

Japanese knotweed is a non-indigenous plant, originally introduced into the UK in the mid-1880s as an ornamental shrub, but later used to stabilise railway embankments.   It is now found extensively across England and Wales and spreads prolifically where found.

That the tough, creeping roots (rhizomes) can damage structures by exploiting cracks and gaps was recognised in an information paper issued by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in 2013.

When growing, the plant is fairly easy to identify, with the website of the Non-native Species Secretariat (www.nonnativespecies.org), among others, containing photographs and descriptions to assist.

Where it is found, it is important to ensure the plant is eradicated quickly, as any spread to neighbouring land may lead to claims (including injunctions and compensation) from neighbours, even if no damage has occurred to structures on the property.   Any damage to a structure which occurred after the publication of the RICS paper in 2013 may also be actionable and could be expensive to resolve.

Resolving the problem of knotweed on a property is usually carried out by a licenced contractor.  Works will include treatment applied to the plant itself, alongside its removal to a licenced landfill site and excavation of the soil, over a period of years (this is a Knotweed Management Plan, or KMP).   Providing such a plan or a guarantee is in place, mortgage lenders will often be happy to lend on the property as the threat has been contained.

It is possible to complete these works yourself if you are suitably skilled and experienced.  However, the process is highly regulated and there are strict requirements around obtaining permits, permissions and notification of the relevant agencies.  More information can be found here:  https://www.gov.uk/guidance/prevent-japanese-knotweed-from-spreading

You may be unable to provide the documents necessary to satisfy a mortgage lender if you sell the property without using a licenced contractor.

When selling a property, the Property Information form (TA6) asks whether the property or an area ‘adjacent to or abutting the boundary’ is affected by knotweed.   If you are aware of any knotweed, you must answer ‘yes’ to that question and provide any relevant documents (e.g. a copy of the KMP or guarantee).

If the property is not covered by a KMP or guarantee, it would be difficult to know, without expert knowledge, that there is definitely no plant present.  This is because the plant can lie dormant beneath the soil or not be visible behind a structure.  In these cases, the Law Society’s notes state that you should reply ‘not sure’.  This is important, as the courts have found that a buyer may rely on a seller’s reply to this question, even if the seller genuinely but mistakenly believed the property to be free of knotweed.

For their part, a property buyer should be sure to inspect the property themselves and ask their surveyor for advice.  Online maps are also available which show the spread of recorded instances of the plant across the country.   A buyer should approach a licenced contractor, if concerned.

If you would like further guidance, or if you are looking for a conveyancer to handle your property purchase or sale, please contact our Residential Property team at property@wansbroughs.com | 01380 733367.


Posted By Our Residential Property Team