Court ruling states that neighbours are entitled to damages for Japanese knotweed “encroachment”

A Court of Appeal ruling this week decided that owners of land in England and Wales will be entitled to claim damages if Japanese knotweed has encroached on their property from neighbouring land.

The court ruled in favour of two neighbours in Maesteg, South Wales, whose properties had been affected by the growth of the plant. They made a joint claim against Network Rail who own the property immediately behind them, as the Japanese knotweed had grown from Network Rail’s land spreading under the properties.
Japanese knotweed, which grows quickly and strongly and spreads through its underground roots, can undermine the structural integrity of buildings and is expensive to treat.

The court heard that the plant had been present on Network Rail’s land for approximately 50 years, and the claimants first complained in 2013. They were successful in a county court claim in 2017 and were awarded damages. Network Rail appealed against that decision, but this week the Court of Appeal ruled that the landowners were entitled to damages because the roots of the plant had extended beneath the two bungalows.

In giving their decision, the Court stated that “Japanese knotweed, and its roots and rhizomes, does not merely carry the risk of future physical damage to buildings, structures and installations on the land. Its presence imposes an immediate burden on landowners who face an increased difficulty in their ability to develop, and in the cost of developing, their land, should they wish to do so, because of the difficulties and expense of eradicating Japanese knotweed from affected land.

“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.”

The Court did however state that the claimants were not entitled to seek damages on the basis of their respective property values being reduced as a result of the knotweed.
If you are buying or selling a property, whether in England or Wales, please contact Andy Roscoe at Meaby & Co for advice: andy@meaby.co.uk or call 020 7703 5034.

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