1. What is Japanese Knotweed?
Japanese knotweed is a plant that can cause significant issues for buildings and damage to properties. The plant has roots that can grow down as far as 10 feet. These roots are invasive and can cause issues to property such as structural damage to buildings. You can also be liable for damage caused by them to your neighbouring buildings.
Due to these problems, having Japanese knotweed on the premises can have an impact on the property value. It also means that the mortgage lender may find the property too much of a risk to lend on.
2. Recent judgment on the case of Jonathan Downing-v- Jeremy Henderson 2023
A judgment was handed down recently where a seller of a property was successfully sued by the purchaser for over £200,000 – the case of Jonathan Downing-v- Jeremy Henderson.
In this case the Seller misrepresented the presence of Japanese knotweed which was growing in the back garden of the Property he sold for £700,000 in London. On the Seller’s Property Information Form (TA6) the Seller ticked “no” in response to the question as to whether the property is affected by Japanese knotweed. However, it transpired after the sale, as determined by the Judge at Trial that the presence of the Japanese knotweed was likely to have been known to the Seller, whereby the response provided to the question was a misrepresentation.
Nic Seal, Founder and MD of invasive plant specialist Environet, said that:
“A cursory glance around the garden by an untrained eye is not sufficient. Knotweed dies back during the winter months and can even lie dormant beneath the ground for up to 20 years with no sign of growth. It also takes on a completely new appearance if chemicals have been applied in an attempt to kill it, making it harder to recognise.
It’s the seller’s duty to determine if their property is affected by knotweed. It might be tempting to cross your fingers and hope for the best, but if it later arises and the buyer sues, you’ll be liable for diminution of the value of the property and legal costs, which can amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds. The only way to confidently state that a property is unaffected is to commission a professional knotweed survey, backed by a warranty.”
Simply put, for a seller to answer “no” to the TA6’s Knotweed question, they “must be certain the property is not affected, including rhizome beneath the ground and within three metres of the boundary”.
3. Have you purchased a property with Japanese knotweed?
If you have discovered that there is Japanese knotweed on a property you have purchased, then it is important you act quickly, as you need to ascertain the source of the plant infestation so that you can limit the damage and deal with the infestation. This is also to investigate whether it is likely you were misled by the Seller when you purchased the Property.
In addition to the above, there may be a claim if you had a survey carried out before you purchased the Property, in which the Surveyor failed to identify the presence of Japanese knotweed, whereby the Surveyor may be liable in negligence. This would of course depend on the type of report you instructed the surveyor to undertake.