Dreaded Japanese Knotweed
- AuthorVictoria Raven
There are many things a potential buyer should be aware of, but none more so than the dreaded Japanese Knotweed. This invasive plant spreads like wildfire and is well-known to cause damage to buildings and hard structures. Not an attractive prospect for a buyer and a nightmare for a homeowner. Mortgage lenders are equally unwilling to lend on affected properties as it can impact on their security.
However, as well as buyers being wary, it is essential that sellers are also wary and that they declare any knowledge of the plant. Concealment of this knowledge may give a buyer grounds to rescind the contract and stop a sale in its tracks.
Knowledge of the knotweed extends to knowledge of it on neighbouring or nearby properties and unfortunately, due to its ferocious nature, proximity to it can even affect the value of a neighbour’s property, such was the case in Robin Waistell v Network Rail.
Robin Waistell had repeatedly requested that Network Rail control the aggressive growth of Japanese Knotweed impinging on his bungalow. Mr Waistell claimed he was unable to sell his property and that the property had decreased in value by over £60k as a result of the invasion. He successfully sued Network Rail in a landmark case for private nuisance. Network Rail argued that no significant damage had been caused to the property, but this defence failed; there was evidence that the plant had indeed affected the property’s value. The mere presence of knotweed demonstrated an interference with the use and enjoyment of Mr Waistell’s land. Mr Waistell was awarded £15,000, a third of which is to be spent on treatment of the plant.
The judgment makes it clear that landowners have a positive duty to very carefully control and manage any knotweed growing on their property. It does not matter if the knotweed is confined to the landowner’s property and is not encroaching elsewhere; its very existence could be affecting the value of neighbouring land for which the landowner may be liable. Owners beware!