Japanese Knotweed is a species of plant that has bamboo like stems and small white flowers. It is native to Japan and is considered an invasive species. It is a durable and fast growing and can seriously damage buildings and construction sites if left unchecked. To rid a property of knotweed a strict and lengthy management process has to be undertaken which is expensive.
If found on a property Japanese knotweed can have serious consequences for the owner of the land
In recent times there have been two significant Court cases involving the liability for the costs involving the existence of Knotweed both on and in the vicinity of Property.
The first involves the responsibilities of landowners who have knowledge of Knotweed on their land.
In 2018, two neighbours in Wales were successfully awarded damages against Network Rail which owned land with Japanese Knotweed on it adjoining the gardens of the two neighbours.
The neighbours first complained to Network rail about encroachment of knotweed onto their properties in 2013.
Until 2018, Network Rail failed to adequately deal with the Knotweed and prevent the spread. The Judge said, “In this way, Japanese knotweed can fairly be described as a natural hazard which affects landowners’ ability fully to use and enjoy their property and, in doing so, interferes with the land’s amenity value.”
As a result, the neighbours won £4900 damages for loss of amenity value.
From this case there appears to be an obligation on Landowners who are aware of the existence of Knotweed on its land to treat it quickly to stop the spread to neighbour land.
The second relates to the obligation on Sellers to ensure that responses given on the Property information form are reasonably researched for accuracy.
In 2022 a Seller was sued by a Buyer over the non-disclosure of the presence of Japanese Knotweed at a house on a Property Information form during the sale of a property.
The Property Information Form is completed by Sellers at the beginning of the sales process and contains a series of questions about the property including boundary maintenance, planning history and now includes a direct question about the existence of Japanese Knotweed. There are three choices for an answer “Yes, No or not known.”
In this particular case the Seller had answered “No” to that question.
On moving in the Buyer discovered knotweed on the Property and sued the Seller for a misrepresentation having relied on the Property Information Form responses.
The Buyer was successful in his claim. In court it transpired that the Seller had been aware of the existence of Knotweed and in fact there was evidence that it had been treated in the past.
The Court held that the Seller did not genuinely believe his Property was free of knotweed at the time of the sale and did not make a reasonable inspection of his Property to check the position prior to giving the response on the form and had therefore made a false representation to the Buyer.
The Buyer was successful in a claim for £32000 to cover the costs of investigating and excavating the plant and well as loss in value of his home caused by the Knotweed.
This case shows the need for all Sellers to be careful in providing accurate information to the buyer during a sale and in particular, to make reasonable attempts to verify the information given is correct.
Article written by Graham Woodhouse – Senior Associate in the Residential Property Team at Edmondson Hall.
If you would like any advice on this or any other Property matters, please contact Graham Woodhouse on email@example.com or by telephone 01638 560556.