The Alien Invasion of Japanese Knotweed
As a Solicitor specialising in property, I never expected that I would need to know anything about horticulture (green-fingered I am not!) Recently, however, I have come to learn quite a lot about the Eastern-Asian invader that is Japanese Knotweed.
The plant itself, so I am told, looks quite innocent and is easily mistaken for bamboo. But in reality it is anything but innocent. In the wild it impacts on wildlife habitats and can contribute to flooding. On occupied land, the weed can grow through cement structures, brick walls and floorboards causing damage to buildings. It can also spread uncontrollably and rapidly if left untreated.
The weed has caused such problems in the UK that it is legally classified as ‘controlled waste’ under Part II of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which means that you can only dispose of it in a legally prescribed fashion at licensed landfill sites.
The result of an infestation could, in practice, cause substantial and costly damage to your property. It could also affect your ability to insure a property and, ultimately, damage its value and marketability.
So what should you do if you discover the offender on your land? Sadly, the majority of building insurance policies do not cover damage and problems caused by Knotweed, nevertheless, you should take immediate action to prevent or limit any damage. Consider using a specialist company to deal with treatment, who can properly dispose of the offensive plant material.
Putting aside the risk of damage to your land, interestingly, the law does not place an obligation on you directly to control or treat the infestation. But, should you fail to take ‘reasonable measures’ to control it and your failure results in the plant spreading, there is potential for you to find yourself on the wrong side of legal proceedings. Such proceedings could take place in either the criminal or civil courts and could include:
• A civil lawsuit for causing a nuisance if the plant spreads outside the property to your neighbours;
• Criminal liability if you were, for example, to fail to correctly handle the plant (such as taking it to the tip);
• Enforcement action by the Council – in the event that land such as the public highway is adversely effected by Knotweed infestation that originated from your land.
If you are looking to sell your property, you will be asked questions about Knotweed infestation.
As a buyer, the overriding premise of ‘caveat emptor’ will apply, so you should make sure that you appoint a Surveyor to assist you. Any concerns you or your Surveyor have should be raised with your legal advisors.General, George Ide, News, Residential Property Conveyancing