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Tackling Japanese Knotweed: it's a team effort

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I wrote about Japanese Knotweed in a blog post last month. Today, I want to delve more into the claims which may arise and action you can take as an affected property owner, and how specialist legal advice can help ease that process.

In addition to seeking an injunction to force the landowner where the Japanese Knotweed originates to take action, you may also be able to seek back the additional costs you incur in having to deal with it. Those can include treatment costs, the costs of an insurance policy to back that treatment, potentially damages for the impact on enjoyment of your property and damages for the reduction in value of the property.

Diminution in value

The presence of uncontrolled Knotweed can detrimentally affect the value of your property by a significant percentage. Detailed expert surveyor evidence, combined with experienced legal representatives is needed. There is little guidance available for property owners on how the reduction in value is to be assessed. Once treatment is underway, it can be argued that the impact on value of a property will decrease over time until the treatment programme is complete. It is also true to argue that there may always be a residual ‘tainting’ of properties which have suffered from Knotweed. It is a complicated legal assessment as to the actual loss you suffer. Stephensons have secured payments for clients for the reduction in value of their property. We have good links with experienced surveyors and Japanese Knotweed treatment specialists. As a team, we can provide sound practical advice on effectively controlling the Knotweed in addition to helping you through a legal claim against a landowner, or assisting you to defend a claim brought against you.

New powers and the ‘community trigger’

New legislation can also help affected landowners, and provides an additional tool to deal with Knotweed. The Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 aims to protect against any persistent or continuing detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality. I would argue that this can be applied easily to Knotweed.

Local councils (and more rarely) the police can issue a Community Protection Notice against any party or body which meets the legal test above. If they are satisfied that the conduct of the party or body is having the continuing detrimental effect, the Notice can be issued. It can be issued even where a party or body fails to take action, such as in the case of uncontrolled or inadequately controlled Knotweed.

Following written warnings about the antisocial behaviour, a Notice could be issued to force a body to take steps to rectify the behaviour or restrict certain behaviour. In the case of Knotweed, a Notice could be issued to force a body to control the Knotweed. Failure to comply with such a Notice, without a reasonable excuse, is a criminal offence which could result in a fine or prosecution.

Crucially, any individual or organisation can trigger the procedure. Anyone affected by the alleged persistent antisocial behaviour can make a complaint which must be reviewed to see if the new Act is triggered. You could be the landowner affected by Knotweed, or simply a concerned individual.

It provides another mechanism to get help with practically controlling the Knotweed problem to allow development to continue or simply to restore your garden. Stephensons can advise you about utilising the community trigger alongside the private claims for your losses.

How can we help?

I have said before that Japanese Knotweed, and other invasive plants like Giant Hogweed, are the current hot topic in property. Despite this, little guidance exists outside of the law. Much like tackling the plant itself, I strongly recommend that property owners take a rounded approach to dealing with the claims. You need a strong combination of legal, surveyor and treatment advice. Each needs to be specialists. The dispute resolution team at Stephensons offer specialist advice on Japanese Knotweed and coordinate the other experts needed to make your claim as easy as possible.

Contact our team today to discuss your options on 0175 321 6399.

By dispute resolution solicitor, Amy Johnston

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