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Oakwood Solicitors Ltd is able to assist in resolving a wide variety of Litigation and Dispute Resolution matters requiring legal assistance, including Japanese Knotweed claims.
Whether it be simply pointing you in the right direction, or assisting you from start to finish – we are on hand to help.
What is Japanese knotweed?
Japanese knotweed is the most widespread form of knotweed. You can identify it as there is a growth pattern of one stem per node, which forms a zig-zag stem growth pattern. The leaves are of a mid-green colour and are almost in the shape of a heart, having a straight back edge.
The Knotweed flowers are small and a creamy-white colour. They form in loose clusters around the time of year when Summer begins to change to Autumn. Japanese Knotweed plants growing in the UK are female, which means they do not produce viable seeds.
During Springtime, Japanese Knotweed growth is at its fastest rate. The plants emerge from the ground as a red/purple colour and look like asparagus spears. The canes can reach up to 10 feet high in late spring.
The Summer is when they start to take shape, forming into the heart-shaped leaves mentioned prior. Late summer is when the small clusters of white flowers start to appear, and the stems are hollow and resemble bamboo. In Autumn, the Knotweed will begin to turn yellow and wilt as a result. However, the plants are still around three metres tall and the stems begin to turn brown.
Winter is when the knotweed canes die off and the weed becomes dormant. The leaves will gradually go from yellow to brown and eventually fall off. The canes become hollow and dark and will collapse upon one another as a result.
Where does it come from?
Japanese Knotweed originated in eastern Asia. It was brought to Britain in the 19th Century by the Victorians, who used it as an ornamental plant and also as cattle feed.
What else was it used for?
Japanese knotweed was also used to help obscure railway embankments, and can often be found along waterways. Since then it has spread across the country, threatening the foundations of houses and having a negative effect on property prices.
What is the problem with the plant?
The weed isn’t poisonous to human beings, but can be irritable to sensitive skin. It has a very quick growth speed, which can be up to 2m in thirty days. Japanese Knotweed can force its way through lots of different materials, including tarmac and even concrete.
This means it can cause structural and foundational problems for nearby houses and buildings.
What is the true extent of damage that can be caused by Japanese knotweed?
Due to the nature and speed of growth of Japanese Knotweed, it can cause substantial damage to building structures by targeting weaknesses such as cracks and gaps in walls as the Japanese Knotweed will seek to grow through them. In the search for moisture, Japanese Knotweed can damage structures, underground water, and gas pipes.
How is Japanese knotweed treated?
Japanese knotweed can be treated in a number of different ways, and when choosing the steps to take – consideration must be given to various factors such as the economics, the ecology of the surrounding area, and the potential further damage to property.
Treatment methods include:
We would always recommend using a professional company to help you remove Japanese Knotweed. A list of dedicated professionals can be found on the Property Care Association website.
What do I do if I find knotweed growing on my property?
If it is identified that Japanese Knotweed is growing from your property/land, then you must take steps in order to prevent it from spreading to your neighbouring properties. Failure to do so could result in fines, a claim made against you, or even a custodial sentence.
If it is discovered that the Japanese Knotweed from your land has encroached on neighbouring properties, then a claim made be made against you by your neighbouring properties.
It could also lead to nuisance proceedings being taken against you in respect of an injunction (Court Order) that you professionally treat and remove the knotweed. You will have to pay damages, treatment costs and legal costs, for yourself and any affected properties.
If Japanese knotweed is not treated properly or removed professionally it can damage neighbouring properties, dramatically reduce house prices, affect your mortgage, or put off potential buyers of yours and neighbouring properties. Many lenders will not lend if you have Japanese knotweed on your property.
You must declare if Japanese knotweed is on your property, failure to do so could lead to a claim against you as it is a misrepresentation to the individual who purchased your property.
You are also at risk of a claim against you from your neighbour if they lose a sale because of the encroachment of Japanese knotweed. Therefore, it must be taken seriously, and crucial that you seek legal advice in the first instance that you discover knotweed on your property.
What are my responsibilities?
Aside from trying to ensure that you stop Japanese Knotweed from damaging your own property and losing you money in professional treatment plans, you have a duty to ensure that neighbouring properties are not affected by Knotweed originating from your own land.
If you fail to do so and the Japanese knotweed has a detrimental effect or becomes a nuisance to those in your locality, you could be prosecuted and face up to a £2,500 fine.
If you are looking to sell your property, you must ensure to check your garden for Japanese Knotweed growth and any traces of this pest must be disclosed via the TA6 form that your solicitor will use when the sale is progressing.
If you are buying a property that contains Japanese Knotweed, this should be specified in your TA6 form.
What can this mean to me and my mortgage lender?
If the property you are looking to buy contains traces of Japanese Knotweed, then it is likely that your mortgage lender will want some assurances that the problem will be eradicated before they will agree to release your funds.
It may well be that a treatment plan provided by a professional company, backed by a guarantee is sufficient. This plan might be arranged by the seller. On the other hand, your mortgage company may withdraw their offer on disclosure of the Japanese Knotweed problem.
Can I make a claim if I find Japanese knotweed on my property?
If you have purchased a property that has an infestation of Japanese Knotweed that wasn’t picked up on your professional surveys when you acquired the property, you may be able to make a claim for professional negligence against the surveyor.
If you have noticed Japanese Knotweed on your land, the origin of which is coming from a neighbour’s property, you may be able to recover compensation for any loss in value of your own property that is sustained. You may also be able to obtain a Court Order which specifies that your neighbour must put an appropriate treatment order in place.
If you bought a property and can show that the seller was aware that Knotweed was present but failed to disclose it on the TA6 forms, you may be able to pursue a claim for misrepresentation against the seller.
What can you claim for?
Clearly, the costs of removing the Japanese Knotweed needs to be factored in. Depending on the extent of the problem, the costs of this could run into thousands of pounds. The steps to remedy the issue may need to take place on your property or on neighbouring land.
If your property has been damaged by the Japanese Knotweed, you may be able to recover the costs of the repair work to the property.
In severe cases, your property may have lost value due to the presence of the Japanese Knotweed. This is called diminution. Subject to appropriate evidence being obtained from a specialist, you may be entitled to recover the cost of this diminution.
Why should I choose Oakwood Solicitors Ltd?
From the start of your claim until the conclusion you will have a dedicated advisor who will run your claim, assisting you in the event of any queries or issues you may have.
Regular updates will be provided by your case handler up until your claim has ended. This is to ensure the process is as stress-free and effortless as possible.
If you believe or feel you have a claim, contact us for a free initial consultation regarding your options:
Daniel Masterton-Doig is a Paralegal working in Litigation and Dispute Resolution.
Prior to joining the firm in 2017 Daniel graduated from University with a first class degree in Law. Daniel was also a finalist in the prestigious national Future Legal Mind competition in 2016 and was published in 2018 in the academic journal The Irish Legal Times.