Japanese Knotweed – The ornamental plant you don’t want at your property.
What is Japanese Knotweed?
Japanese Knotweed is an invasive plant which originates from Japan. In spring and early summer, the bamboo like shoots of this plant can grow very rapidly to 7ft tall with roots up to 3 metres deep underground.
How did it get here?
The plant was introduced to the UK in the 19th Century by a botanist called Phillipp von Siebold. It become available for public sale in the UK as an ornamental plant and animal fodder and was in later years, purposefully planted along railways and river banks. Sale of the plant ceased by the 1930’s but the plant continued to spread. The Environment Agency have described it as “indisputably, the UK’s most aggressive, destructive and invasive plant”.
What effect can it have on my property?
The implications of Japanese knotweed on a property are serious. The plant can force its way through concrete and brick and therefore poses a risk to property foundations and drainage systems. It can take several years to eradicate and treatment plans can be costly. The Council of Mortgage Lenders advise that the presence of Japanese Knotweed or other invasive species may affect the valuation of a property and mortgage lenders who are prepared to lend with the presence of Japanese knotweed, will normally require evidence of treatment that will eradicate the plant, as a condition of lending.
How is Japanese knotweed dealt with in the conveyancing process?
Page 10 of the Property Information Form (3rd Edition) which is completed by a seller as part of the conveyancing process contains a statement which reads:-
Note: Japanese Knotweed is an invasive plant that can cause damage to property. It can take several years to eradicate.
Question 7.8 of the Property Information Form then asks whether the property is affected by Japanese knotweed. A seller can either answer “No” “Not Known or “Yes”. (In which case the seller is prompted to confirm whether there is a Japanese Knotweed Management Plan in place and if so, to provide a copy). Many sellers will respond “no” or “not known” and possibly add a caveat along the lines of “as far as the seller is aware”. This may reflect the fact that most property owners are not horticultural experts and the plant can be difficult to identify.
The Next Step
If a seller is in any doubt when answering Question 7.8 on the form, they should consult their solicitor as, if a seller provides incorrect or incomplete information, the buyer may be able to make a claim for compensation. Equally, a buyer is entitled to rely on the reply given by the seller to this question however, the reply should not be treated as a substitute for undertaking a survey and buyers should in any case, obtain a survey to satisfy themselves as to whether there is Japanese knotweed present at the property before proceeding to an exchange of contracts.
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