Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed: two words that can cause alarm bells for those that are buying and selling property. This article aims to touch on everything you need to know about the infamous weed and why its reputation precedes it.

What is Japanese Knotweed, and why is it a problem?

Japanese Knotweed is an invasive perennial weed that grows rapidly and can be both difficult and costly to eradicate.

This is a problem for homeowners with Japanese Knotweed present on their property as the roots can be so strong and invasive that they have the potential to cause damage to concrete foundations and structures.

The weed has garnered quite a reputation over the years, resulting in properties suffering from Japanese Knotweed issues experiencing a notable decrease in value. This issue then creates a knock-on effect as many lenders have become reluctant to lend on a property with Japanese Knotweed as their security in the property is seen as potentially compromised.

Owning a property with Japanese Knotweed

The plant is classed as a legally controlled plant under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, Section 114. The Act states that whilst it is not illegal to have Japanese Knotweed on your property, it is however illegal to allow it or cause it to spread into the wild.

Therefore, this places responsibility on those who knowingly own a property with Japanese Knotweed to ensure that they are controlling its growth and preventing it from spreading. To do this, you would have to look into setting up a treatment plan with a professional, which does not come cheaply.

Do you legally have to disclose Japanese Knotweed when selling your property?

In short, the answer is yes. Japanese Knotweed aside, it is your duty as a seller to be honest when completing the Property information Form (TA6). This form is one of the general protocol forms used in conveyancing and is completed by the seller at the beginning of the transaction. It can be construed as a misrepresentation if you are caught out not being honest.  Particularly, there is a question within the form regarding the presence of Japanese Knotweed. This question must be answered; therefore, it is essential to disclose this if you know it.

One thing to note is that if you are unsure whether Japanese Knotweed is on the property, we advise that you answer the protocol forms with ‘not known’ rather than ‘no’. This is the current Law Society guidance. This way, it invites the buyer of the property to make their own inspections on the matter. If you are to select ‘no’ as an answer, you are implying that you have carried out an extent of investigation and you are certain that no rhizome (root) is present in the ground of the property or within 3 meters of the property boundary. Again, if you have answered this incorrectly, even unknowingly, it can be construed as a misrepresentation. 

Lastly, if the Estate Agent is aware of Japanese Knotweed being present on the property, they should disclose this to the buyer to avoid later being accused of misrepresentation.

Buying a property with Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed present on a property does not mean you should instantly disregard the property, as the issue is certainly treatable and can be eradicated if dealt with properly. However, there are some points which you should be aware of.

If you are concerned that the property you are buying may be affected by Japanese Knotweed, the best course of action would be to have a Japanese Knotweed Survey carried out on the property prior to the exchange of contracts. This way, if the survey finds the property to have a Japanese Knotweed issue, you will be able to come to some form of agreement with the seller.

Should you end up buying a property with Japanese Knotweed, as mentioned above, it will be your responsibility to control its growth or treat it, to ensure that it does not spread uncontrollably onto neighbouring property. You must also note that you cannot dispose of Japanese Knotweed in your usual garden waste or recycling bins, as it is classed as controlled waste, and it is illegal to dispose of it in this way. The waste must be taken to an approved site that will handle it correctly.

If you decide to treat the issue professionally, this can be costly, and treatment plans are often carried out over several years in stages. However, professional treatment plans can be very successful and can completely eradicate the weed. If the property you are looking to buy has an ongoing treatment plan in place, this will likely help your case with any mortgage lender.

You must also note that Japanese Knotweed is likely to affect any building insurance premium you take out. Whilst you do not legally have to disclose this, the effect of non-disclosure may result in the property not being adequately insured for any issues related to the weed.

Finally, there are indemnity insurance policies available for a one-off premium payment. These are insurance policies that aim to insure against any losses arising from any remediation works and any costs associated with altering, repairing, or demolishing a part of the property resulting from any damage caused by the weed. However, it is not guaranteed that these policies will pay out when required, so it is important to remain cautious.

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