Japanese Knotweed – springing into action

5th May 2020

We at Burtons love to see spring in the air, flowers blooming, sun glowing and a generally more upbeat mood for everyone. However, spring not only brings lovely flowers it can also bring frustrating weeds; none are more frustrating and difficult to deal with than Japanese Knotweed.

What is Japanese Knotweed you may ask?

Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia Japonica), first introduce in to the UK in the nineteenth century, is a rapid spreading invasive species of plant that can grow to 2.1 meters (6.9 foot) tall at a rate of up to 10cm (3/4 of an inch) a day. With the potential to grow through walls, tarmac and concrete and flourish in any soil it can be a damaging weed to structures.

How to spot it?

It has reddish-purple fleshy shoots emerging from crimson-pink buds, with heart or spade shaped leaves borne in a zig zag like pattern as seen below.

The legal implications

Whilst it is not illegal to grow the plant on your property it is illegal to allow it to grow in the wild, i.e. to spread beyond your property. There is also no legal requirement to remove or report the plant, so why is it such an issue?

The main implications of Japanese Knotweed are the potential of civil claims for nuisance against you if it is found on your land. In the recent case of Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd v Williams and another [2018] EWCA Civ 1514, it was held that even the presence of the roots of Japanese Knotweed (rhizomes) was enough to impose a burden on the landowner and interfered with the use and enjoyment of the neighbour’s land.

The liability arose from both the knowledge of the presence of Japanese Knotweed and a failure to take reasonable steps to prevent interference (it spreading to the neighbour’s land). In this case Network Rail had to pay out for the cost of treatment to remove the knotweed, the cost of surveys, modest damages for interference in the enjoyment of the land and damages relating to the devaluing of the property once the knotweed was removed.

Another issue as mentioned above if the devaluing of the property; many mortgage lenders are reluctant to lend on a property where knotweed is present, and no eradication plan is in place. Even if a plan is in place the lender may choose to down value the property, meaning you may not get the mortgage you need for buying or you may get less of a return when you sell the property if a buyer cannot get the mortgage they need and tries to renegotiate the price.

Finally, a failure to control the growth or deal with the eradication of Knotweed where you could reasonably be expected to do so may lead to an Community Protection Order issued against you. One Council has already been successful in enforcing such an order (Bristol City Council v MB Estate Ltd) which led to an £18,000 fine.

So what should I do?

If you believe you have Japanese Knotweed on the property you should organise a specialist to confirm the same and enter into a treatment plan to deal with this. These plans can take years to fully eradicate the weed.

If you would like to know more, please speak to our conveyancing team on 01634 540 046 or on walderslade@burtons-solicitors.com.