Japanese Knotweed: Buyers and Sellers beware

Anybody who is currently in the process of selling or buying a property might recall on the Property Information Form that is provided at the outset of the process the following question: “Is the property affected by Japanese Knotweed?”

When compared to some of the other questions presented on the Property Information Form, it might seem like a trivial question to ask whether a specific species of plant is found on the property. However, this question is not without good reason. This plant can in fact cause extensive and severe damage to properties which can take several years to eradicate. There is even a chance that the presence of such a plant on the property could see a substantial drop in its value, or scare potential buyers away.

So, what is this plant? And why is it causing so many problems now that it must be declared by a seller on a Property Information Form?

What is Japanese Knotweed?

Originally brought over to the U.K. in the 1800s, a box of 40 plants has now grown to be one of the U.K.’s most invasive plant species, with The Environment Agency stating that it is “indisputably the U.K.’s most aggressive, destructive and invasive plant.” In fact, the removal of this plant costs an estimated £166 million each year.

There are suggestions that today there is at least one infestation in every 10 square kilometres within the U.K.

The Conveyancing Process with Japanese Knotweed

For those wishing to buy or sell a property, the discovery of Japanese Knotweed does not have to be a deal breaker. If a seller does declare this on the Property Information Form, then the seller will need to put a professional treatment plan in place, and also secure an insurance backed guarantee for a minimum of five years, but preferably ten years. Any prospective buyer should not agree to exchange on the property until this guarantee is purchased.

Lender Woes

The other element of the transaction that must be considered is, if as a buyer you are seeking a mortgage, your lender may be unwilling to secure their charge over a property that has issues with Japanese Knotweed. As conveyancers, if you are purchasing your property with a mortgage, we will also be appointed by that mortgage provider, i.e. your bank, to act on their behalf in the transaction. This means that we equally have a duty to the lender to report any issues or occurrences of Japanese Knotweed so that the lender can take any appropriate action, including potentially withdrawing their mortgage offer in its entirety. It may not be as drastic however, as the lender could instead choose to instruct a property valuer to attend the property to inspect the problem, or request a specialist survey of the area, at the sellers expense.

The General Legal Position on Japanese Knotweed

  • It is not an offence to have Japanese Knotweed on your land, however under Section 14(1) and (2) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is an offence to plant it or otherwise cause it to grow in the wild.
  • If there is Japanese Knotweed on your neighbour’s property, and it appears that it may encroach onto your property, you may have the possibility of applying for an injunction from the Courts, requiring the neighbouring land owner to abate the nuisance.

In Summary

It appears that the approach of banks as lenders towards Japanese Knotweed is quite harsh and potentially unfair on both buyers and sellers alike. But do not despair! If your dream home has been identified as suffering from Japanese Knotweed, the ball is in your court. The sellers must rectify the issue and provide an ongoing management plan at their cost. Equally, if you are the seller, although a significantly difficult horticultural issue, Japanese Knotweed does not have to mean the end of the road in your conveyancing process.

The conveyancing team at Barrett & Co are on hand to guide you through the entire conveyancing process and have many years of experience in picking up these issues and can assist you with your options.

If you would like a quotation on a prospective sale or purchase, please do not hesitate to contact the team on info@barrettandco.co.uk.

 

Further reading

Property Conveyancing

Conveyancing Fees Estimate

National Conveyancing Protocol & Its Importance

New Law Society Conveyancing Protocol

If I am buying a property, surely I do not need searches?

A look at new build properties: The differences to the conveyancing process

Understanding conveyancing terminology: what are “fixtures and fittings”?

Understanding conveyancing terminology: what is “completion”?

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