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A growing issue knot without its problems

View profile for Paul Harris
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Japanese Knotweed has become one of the most talked about and prevalent issues in property transactions over recent years. The mere mention of the dreaded plant is enough to put buyers, sellers, lenders and conveyancers on edge. Not without just cause either, as has been well documented, the invasive species is incredibly persistent and leaves destruction in its wake.

Rather unfortunately, there was a time when Japanese Knotweed was actively encouraged to grow along railway embankments by Network Rail as the root system of the plant is particularly good for the structural integrity of the embankments…less so for the structural integrity of adjoining properties to those embankments! There have been a growing number of cases recently where home owners have taken to the courts to sue Network Rail for the tort of private nuisance, and have been successful. The latest case to hit the headlines involved neighbours Stephen Williams and Robin Waistell from South Wales who were successful in a claim against Network Rail where even though encroaching knotweed had not caused physical damage to their properties it had encroached to within the boundary of their gardens. Mr Williams and Mr Waistell were successful on the basis that the knotweed interfered with the claimants’ ability to use and fully enjoy their land. According to Sir Terence Etherton this was a ‘classic example of an interference with the amenity value of the land’.

The case above sets a precedent, somewhat, for similar claims to be made by landlowners across the country. It should also serve as a reminder to sellers, both in residential and commercial transactions, that any representations made in respect of Japanese Knotweed need to be accurate and correct. Failure in these regards can result in a buyer rescinding the contract or claiming damages against the seller due to the reduction in value of the property.