Landmark court rulings for failure to control Japanese knotweed

Recent court decisions have highlighted the risks to landowners with Japanese knotweed on their land of allowing it to spread to adjoining property, or even allowing it to grow close to boundaries with adjacent land.

Earlier this month, the Truro County Court delivered its judgment in Adam Smith and Eleanor Smith v Rosemary Line. The court ruled that the defendant was liable in common law nuisance for a 10% diminution in the value of the claimants’ £500,000 property for allowing Japanese knotweed to invade their garden.    This  decision was made on the basis that while it is not illegal to have knotweed on land, it is illegal to allow it to spread.  As a result, the defendant was ordered to employ a contractor over the next five years to eradicate the weed and pay court costs.

In April 2017, in Williams v Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd, the Cardiff County Court decided that knotweed was an actionable interference before it caused physical damage on adjoining land because of its effect on the use and enjoyment of the claimants’ land.   In this case, two homeowners took action against Network Rail after Japanese knotweed grew into their garden from adjoining railway sidings.  Their homes had fallen in value and were difficult to sell as Network Rail had not taken adequate measures to control the Japanese knotweed growing on their land.  The homeowners were awarded damages for the cost of treatment and the loss in value of property after the treatment had been carried out.  Network Rail is appealing that decision.

These cases reinforce the legal precedent for homeowners to ensure that knotweed on their property is not preventing neighbouring owners from being able to sell their property for market value.  In the past, landowners have not been legally required to control or remove existing established areas of Japanese knotweed.  Instead, a landowner would try to reach agreement with the adjoining landowner, but any control works undertaken would have been at their discretion.

The Royal Chartered Institute of Surveyors now advises that knotweed should be removed by an expert, as it is extremely difficult to eradicate unless it is professionally treated.

If you require any further advice in relation to difficulties faced by Japanese knotweed on your property or on neighbouring property please contact Zahra Shah on 020 3053 6509 or at zshah@meaby.co.uk

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