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Japanese knotweed 'cannot be killed off'

Jun 1, 2018

There are fewer more dramatic statements that could ring in the ears of conveyancing solicitors. But, true enough, scientists at Swansea University have claimed that current methods of getting rid of Japanese knotweed cannot eradicate this invasive and, at times, aggressive plant.

If you are wondering what all the fuss is about, the chances are that you haven’t been a part of a conveyancing transaction that has involved Japanese knotweed; if you had, you would definitely have remembered. That is because of the potential havoc that it can wreak – not just in terms of the physical damage its roots can do to walls, foundations and drainage systems, but also in terms of the negative effects that the presence of Japanese knotweed on a property can have on potential buyers and on their insurance and mortgage prospects.   

As property lawyers who help clients buy and sell homes, we see this in action. It’s a standard question posed during the conveyancing process: is your property affected by Japanese knotweed? Whilst a seller might be tempted to conceal the true facts in the hope that the sale will proceed unhindered, that is never, ever advisable, and would constitute an actionable mis-representation. The only course of action if yours is a garden that has this weed (or if your garden is close to a neighbouring property that has it) is to be honest about it and to put in place professional plans to remove it and, please be aware that Japanese knotweed and soil cannot simply be taken to the council waste disposal facility but requires specialist disposal.

The risk, of course, whenever Japanese knotweed enters the equation is that your buyer chooses to walk away from the purchase or, as sometimes happens, they are forced to do so because their lender won’t give them the mortgage that they need.

As a buyer, the issue of the property being affected by Japanese knotweed once again highlights the value of having the property professionally surveyed before contracts are exchanged, since in some cases, such as a probate sale, the seller may genuinely be unaware of the presence of Japanese knotweed but it should be recognized by a surveyor, in which case, as a purchaser you are then aware of its existence before you are committed to a purchase of the property.

If, as this latest scientific study suggests, Japanese knotweed is indeed (for now at least) invincible, that puts a different slant on things. Whereas lenders and buyers alike are sometimes happy to proceed on the basis that a management plan is in place to remove the weed (usually at quite a significant cost, as something that takes a long time to implement), we suspect that some may now be more reluctant to commit because of the likelihood of the Japanese knotweed remaining alive and kicking for many years to come.  

If you are concerned about the home that you’re thinking of selling, or the one you’re looking to buy, talk to us. We will be able to advise you on your legal rights and responsibilities and the viability of a sale or purchase, whichever side of the transaction you’re on.

Contact our Conveyancing team today to discuss how we can assist you, tel: 01264 353411, email: conveyancing@bsandi.co.uk or fill in our no obligation, online enquiry form and someone will be in touch.


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