Knot in my back garden | Residential property law

If you have ever sold a property you will be aware of the question on the information form asking whether your property has Japanese Knotweed. This is an invasive plant which is fast growing and can damage buildings, roadways paving and walls being able to grow through concrete and tarmac!

The presence of knotweed on a property can have a severe detrimental effect, reducing the value of a property or in some cases making it unsaleable. Many mortgage companies will not lend where knotweed is present. The reason for this is that once established knotweed can be extremely difficult to remove and will require specialist treatment and disposal. To eradicate knotweed the roots, which can be as much as 3 meters deep need to be destroyed and the plant above needs to be repeatedly controlled over a number of years. As Knotweed is a controlled risk under the Environment Protection Act 1990 its disposal is regulated by law and it may only be disposed of at a licenced landfill site. This treatment and removal should be only carried out by a specialist firm whose costs can be substantial.

Should you chose to ignore the problem and allow knotweed to spread to your neighbour’s property then they may be able to bring a claim against you on the grounds of common law private nuisance and their claim will include the cost of eradicating the knotweed, loss of enjoyment of their property and an order for you to take continuing action to control the knotweed.

There could also be a criminal liability if you fail to take reasonable measures to control any knotweed allowing it to spread into the wild with the penalties being an unlimited fine and or up to 2 years imprisonment.

Offences may also be committed if knotweed is deliberately planted or released into the wild or for the incorrect disposal as knotweed is classed as contaminated waste.

It is also possible for a local authority to serve a 28-day notice on any landowner to deal with their knotweed and failure to remedy could mean prosecution in the Magistrates court with a fine and order to pay the costs of removal. Local authorities have also used anti-social behaviour notices to compel landowners to eradicate knotweed on their property. Non-compliance can result in heavy fine as well as payment for the removal.

So, it pays to be vigilant, do not ignore the signs of knotweed on yours or your neighbour’s property, and if found treat it straight away and when buying a property, make sure your surveyor checks for knotweed so you have no nasty surprises.

For advice please contact Alison Wacey, Senior Associate Solicitor on 01905 730421 or awacey@thursfields.co.uk

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