Could you spot Japanese Knotweed if you saw it? If you don’t know what it looks like it may be a good idea to find out – I’ve certainly spotted it when walking in Suffolk.
Japanese Knotweed is an invasive, non-native plant. This means it is a criminal offence to plant it in the wild or cause it to grow in the wild, so if it grows on your land and you allow it to grow on anyone else’s property you could be prosecuted and fined or given a community protection notice.
Of course, it would also severely hamper your attempts to sell your property. Solicitors acting for buyers will ask if your property is affected and if you say “yes” buyers are very likely not to purchase a property. You could find your property unsellable or at the very best devalued.
We have experienced situations where our client has decided to pull out of a purchase due to Knotweed. Estate agents we deal with regularly tell similar stories.
A recent case found a land owner financially responsible for the loss of value of neighbouring properties because the Knotweed had spread onto their land, even though it had not yet caused any physical damage to their homes. Legally speaking the Knotweed was a civil “nuisance” putting it in the same category as noise, smell, fumes, dirt and even in some circumstances water. As such, even though there was no physical damage, the claimants could claim interference with the ‘quiet enjoyment’ of their properties. The judge in this case confirmed that loss of value was such interference.
You may wonder what this plant has done to attract such attention. Japanese Knotweed is an attractive and fast growing plant imported for ornamental purposes in the 19th century. It is the “fast growing” quality that causes the problem. Knotweed is pretty much un-stoppable – spreading roots far underground and marching its way through foundations, drains, walls and concrete. Even a very small piece of root will “regenerate” and grow. Contaminated soil is classed as controlled waste and can only be transported and disposed of by licensed operators. It is therefore also very difficult (and expensive) to remove. All in all it is not a good thing.
It is reported that removal of Japanese Knotweed from the Olympic Park at Stratford cost £70 million.
If you’ve got it on your land, you need to deal with it or risk damage to your property, a compensation claim, or criminal sanction.
Our Dispute Resolution Team has considerable experience of pursuing and defending nuisance claims on behalf of clients. Our Residential Property Team can advise on the consequences for a potential sale or purchase. Together we can advise on any possible steps to mitigate the problem, including insurance options if applicable.
Associate, Dispute Resolution Team.