24 May 2012 by Sonal Ghelani

A Knotty Problem

What is Japanese Knotweed?

Japanese Knotweed was introduced to the UK in the mid-nineteenth century as an ornamental plant. Looks, however, can be deceptive as Japanese Knotweed has an invasive root system and the strong growth can damage foundations, buildings, flood defences, drains, roads, paving, retaining walls and architectural sites.

Due to the plant’s aggressive nature and how quickly it grows, it can often take several years to control the infestation. Knotweed roots can exploit existing cracks, gaps, poorly laid surfacing and can grow between slabs.

Under Schedule 9, Part II, of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (‘the Act’) it is an offence to ‘plant or otherwise cause Japanese Knotweed to grow in the wild’.

Penalties

The penalties for an offence under the Act cannot be ignored and both the police and local authorities have an enforcement role.

The Magistrates Court can impose a maximum fine of £5,000.00, a prison sentence of up to six months or both. Even more serious, the Crown Court can impose an unlimited fine, a maximum prison sentence of two years or both.

In addition, allowing Japanese Knotweed to spread onto neighbouring land could lead to your neighbour bringing an action against you for private nuisance.

Considerations when buying or selling a home

As a purchaser it is therefore vital that a survey is carried out prior buying a property in order to sniff out the existence of any Knotweed.

This is particularly important when you are buying a property with a mortgage as it is now common for lenders to refuse to lend on a property with Knotweed, and in certain circumstances where the Knotweed is on adjoining land.

The existence of Japanese Knotweed must also be disclosed to your building insurer.

As a seller, if you know you have Knotweed at your property you should immediately embark on a treatment plan otherwise you may find your property unsellable and/or unmortgageable

The future

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors has now issued its ‘Japanese Knotweed and Residential Property’ information paper. This contains approved advice to help lenders and surveyors accurately identify and assess the risk caused by Japanese Knotweed as well as the ways to treat it. It is supported by the Council of Mortgage Lenders and the Building Society Association. They have categorised the extent of the risk into four classifications, with tier one being the lowest when the plant is seven metres or more from the property.

This should help lenders make a fully informed decision and reduce the number of refused mortgage applications where Knotweed has been identified, on the condition that a proper treatment plan is put in place.

Please call Sonal Ghelani with questions on 020 7288 4705.

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