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Japanese Knotweed: extreme weed or menace to property?

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Japanese Knotweed seems to be everywhere now - and not just in our gardens. This mythical sounding plant is fast becoming the hot topic affecting property and has even made an appearance in a dispute on ITV’s Judge Rinder.

What is Japanese Knotweed?

Japanese Knotweed is a non-native invasive plant, which has incredibly strong root systems. It lies dormant in winter months but then grows aggressively in the growing season from May to October. It has distinctive red stems and attractive flat green leaves.

It can cause damage to buildings, being strong enough to break through concrete. Crucially, if not treated correctly or thoroughly, it will grow back. Leaving just one stem (or rhizome) means it can grow back and continue to blight properties. In the most extreme cases, it can condemn buildings.

Why is it a problem?

In addition to the risk of physical damage to your property, it can also affect your ability to sell your home or obtain a mortgage. Some lenders refuse to lend against a property affected by Japanese Knotweed. Others place restrictions on the mortgage. It can have an effect on the value of your property too, because the treatment time is often lengthy over a number of years and ideally requires insurance to support it.

What can you do?

If you have Japanese Knotweed on your property, you certainly need specialist treatment and legal advice straight away.

Do not touch it. You must seek specialist advice. Simply digging it out will not get rid of Japanese Knotweed, and more importantly, digging it out could be a criminal offence. As it is so invasive, Japanese Knotweed is controlled waste and legislation exists to control how it is disposed of. You cannot simply put it in your green recycling bin.

Isolate the area - it takes only one rhizome to stick to the bottom of a welly or garden tool for it to spread. All tools and equipment used in the area affected should be thoroughly cleaned immediately.

You should seek specialist advice immediately from companies who are accredited in the treatment and disposal of Japanese Knotweed. Whilst this blog makes it sound like some sort of alien triffid, it can be treated effectively over a period of time.

So why is a lawyer writing about extreme gardening?

Japanese Knotweed is not just a weed or irritant for a keen gardener. The presence and spread of Japanese Knotweed can be a legal nuisance and a party may have acted negligently in not treating it at all or not treating it correctly. This is in addition to the detrimental effect on the value of your property and the risk of physical damage. It can hinder large scale developments or impede domestic planning permission.

More and more clients are coming to me with concerns about Japanese Knotweed, both with it on their own property but also worried about its presence on neighbouring property. If you have Knotweed on your land, you need to act fast, as if it spreads onto other people’s property, you could be liable for a claim in nuisance. You risk not only have to meet the cost of treatment but also paying compensation for other losses, such as the effect on value. Equally, if your property neighbours another plot with Knotweed, you may be able to take action to force the owner to deal with it to limit the risk to you.

Here at Stephensons, we have successfully represented clients for a number of years whose properties have been affected by Japanese Knotweed, forcing the land owner to take treatment action and also securing compensation for the effect on value. We have contacts with Japanese Knotweed specialist treatment experts who can advise on the most appropriate treatment methods and also, crucially, act as expert witnesses in your case. We have experience in fighting to protect home owner’s properties through the courts if no agreement can be reached. Given our specialist experience, we are also happy to advise if your property is the source of the Knotweed and can assist you in dealing with any potential claims against you.

So if you thought Japanese Knotweed was just an extreme weed, I hope this helps you think again. If you are experiencing problems with Japanese Knotweed, please do contact us here at Stephensons for a consultation on 01616 966 229.