Japanese Knotweed: Knot in my backyard again!5 Feb 2023 | Shilpa Mathuradas
Many will have read the recent case in which a furniture designer pursued his seller successfully after he moved into his £700,000 south-west London home and found Japanese knotweed behind the garden shed.
It transpired that the knotweed stood up to 2 metres tall and there was also evidence that it had been treated with herbicide in the past. The implication being, the seller was well aware of its existence. The judge found that the seller did not genuinely believe his property had not been affected by the knotweed and found in the buyer’s favour.
This case serves as a reminder to all those who are selling a property that when completing the Property Information Form which specifically asks if the property is affected by Japanese knotweed, the question should be answered carefully. The options are ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘not known’. The seller in this case answered ‘no’ and therefore positively asserted that there was no knotweed at the property thereby misrepresenting the situation when the evidence showed that he must have known of its presence at the property.
Of course, if the seller had responded to the question by saying “not known”, which is quite possible if you are not familiar with the plant, the responsibility would then have shifted to the buyer to investigate the matter further.
What is Japanese Knotweed?
It is a plant which has bamboo-like stems and small white flowers. It was native to Japan and was brought to England by the Victorians to line railway tracks.
There are websites available where you can search if knotweed can be found in your area. If left to grow freely then knotweed can cause significant damage to buildings by infiltrating and weakening foundations as well as growing through paving and tarmac.
What should I do if I discover Japanese Knotweed on my property?
It is important that if you find Japanese knotweed on your property you stop it from spreading off your property. You can be prosecuted for allowing Japanese Knotweed to spread into the wild or onto neighbouring privately owned land. However, you do not legally have to remove it from your property unless it is causing a nuisance. You should not treat knotweed yourself but you can find companies that specialise in its removal.
Who should I notify?
Certainly, if you are selling the property, you must notify potential buyers to avoid a possible claim for damages for misrepresentation. Also, if you are a tenant in a property, you should notify the landlord in writing with as much detail as soon as possible. It is quite possible that depending on the terms of your agreement with the landlord, you are responsible for the costs of treatment.
If you see Japanese Knotweed on neighbouring land, then your first step should be to write to your neighbour to inform them of the position and their duties. If your neighbours do not take the issues seriously then you can approach your local authority which can issue Community Protection Notices under the Anti-social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014. These notices can be issued to individuals or organisations to compel them to control invasive species in situations where they are having a detrimental effect on the quality of life of others.
In summary, Japanese Knotweed must be taken seriously and anyone who discovers it on the property ignores it as their peril.
If you have knotweed on your land, you need to act now! If it spreads onto another property, you could be liable for a claim in nuisance. You risk not only having to meet the cost of treatment but also paying compensation for other losses. If a neighbouring property has Japanese knotweed, you may be able to take action to force the owner to deal with it to limit the risk to you.
If you would like legal advice regarding this or a similar matter, please contact Shilpa Mathuradas, who is a specialist property litigation lawyer at Osbornes Law. You can speak to Shilpa by phoning us or completing the online form below.
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