3 March 2017 by

Japanese knotweed – a landmark ruling

Japanese Knotweed is a highly aggressive, invasive plant that can cause serious structural damage to properties. The Environment Agency describes it as “indisputably the UK’s most aggressive, destructive and invasive plant”. Although it can be treated, this is expensive (usually costing thousands of pounds) and eradication of the plant completely can take years.

If you are selling a property, you have to disclose on the property information form you send to the buyers whether the property is affected by Japanese Knotweed. Failure to admit this, when you should reasonably be aware, could prevent the sale and leave you open to a claim for compensation.

Following a recent landmark court decision, rail company and landowner, Network Rail is potentially facing multiple compensation claims that could total millions of pounds.

Network Rail were taken to court by neighbours Robin Waistell and Stephen Williams after the plant, growing on a railway next to their homes, spread into the foundations of their homes. Because of this, the claimants saw the value of their properties almost halved. In addition, neither Mr Waistell, 70, nor Mr Williams, 43, can sell their properties as the existence of Japanese Knotweed understandably deters buyers whilst many lenders have strict criteria for lending on properties affected by it. It can therefore be difficult to obtain a mortgage on land affected by the plant.

After a four-day hearing at Cardiff County Court in early February, the Judge ordered Network Rail to pay £4,320 to each claimant to treat the knotweed. In addition, the Judge awarded the claimants £10,000 each in compensation for the reduction in the value of their homes. Crucially, the Judge went on to say that if Network Rail failed to get rid of the knotweed completely from the affected properties, the claimants could claim for the full reduction in the value of their homes.

Whether Network Rail appeals the decision is unknown but the ruling clearly puts a greater onus on all landowners (public and private) and government bodies such as Network Rail to treat the problem more seriously and to spend greater time and resources tackling the issue.

For further advice on Japanese Knotweed and help with buying or selling your home, or for a fixed fee quotation, please contact Joseph Caulfield at josephcaulfield@boltburdon.co.uk or on 0207 288 4715.

You can also contact one of our other solicitors in the Residential Property team here.

27 February 2017 by Sarah Goodall

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