Japanese Knotweed – the hidden nemesis in property transactions?

Japanese Knotweed was introduced to the UK from Japan in the nineteenth century for decorative purposes.  However, it has become a pest as it’s strong enough to cause considerable damage to buildings and hard surfaces by growing through gaps in these materials. As well as eradicating other plants in its wake, it can even grow up to 20cm in a day!

Although you do not have to remove Japanese Knotweed by law, if you are found to have allowed it to spread on your property and have made no conscious effort to manage it, you may be guilty of a criminal and/or civil offence.

Moreover, many lenders will be unwilling to lend on property that is found to be infested with Japanese Knotweed.  As lenders are currently taking longer to progress applications, throwing Japanese Knotweed into the mix could potentially delay a transaction further.

Environet, a Japanese Knotweed specialist removal and management business, has highlighted that the plant is harder to identify in this cold season because it is ‘dead-looking’.  Environet  has also predicted that Japanese Knotweed could delay or even derail almost 24,000 property transactions before Christmas 2020.

If you’re unsure whether Japanese Knotweed is an issue, make sure that a professional survey is carried out before you exchange contracts.   For peace of mind, it could be worth contacting a Japanese Knotweed removal specialist, who can carry out a thorough inspection.  Some companies even use dogs in the cold winter months, which can smell knotweed, even when it is only underground and not visible to the human eye.

But what happens if the property you’re buying is infested with Japanese Knotweed, especially if you’re relying on a mortgage?

  • If the seller has a professional treatment plan and a guarantee for knotweed removal from a member of an organisation such as the Property Care Association (PCA), these documents can be passed to your lender. They may agree to continue to lend, depending on the situation.
  • If your lender is happy, your property lawyer can ensure the rights and benefits from the plan and guarantee will pass to you once the sale completes.
  • If the seller has no plan in place, it’s wise to step back from the transaction unless you are prepared to take on the responsibility and costs for such a treatment plan.

And if you’re selling a property which you think may have Japanese Knotweed: always be honest with your buyer and your conveyancer, and seek professional assistance to detect and manage the infestation.

If you’re selling or buying a property with Japanese Knotweed, please do get in touch with our specialist residential team.

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