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September 17th 2013

Andrew Petherbridge

Japanese Knotweed: compensation claims when your house surveyor fails to identify this invasive plant

Andrew Petherbridge

Andrew Petherbridge

Legal Executive, Civil Liberties

Japanese Knotweed: compensation claims when your house surveyor fails to identify this invasive plant

By Andy Petherbridge, legal expert in professional negligence claims

By Andy Petherbridge, legal expert in professional negligence claims

knotweedWhenever you go through the stress of buying a new house there are always a number of problems you may have to overcome – damp, mould, cracks in walls, badly fitting windows to name but a few.

All these usually become apparent after a detailed survey of the interior of the property.

But many surveyors often pay scant or even no regard to problems which may be outside in the garden.

PLEASE NOTE: Neil Hudgell Solicitors no longer deal with this type of claim. This is an historic blog article to be used for reference only.

One particular issue, which is becoming more and more prevalent, is the presence of Japanese Knotweed.  This plant is a strong-growing, clump-forming perennial, with tall, dense annual stems. Stem growth is renewed each year from the stout, deeply-penetrating creeping underground stems.

This invasive and destructive bamboo-like plant has been sprouting across the country in recent years and the Government estimates it would take £1.5billion to clear the infestation.

Japanese Knotweed can grow more than 9ft in just ten weeks, and easily spreads from neighbouring homes, wasteland, waterways, railway lines or footpaths.

Its extensive deep roots can penetrate roads, concrete, damage foundations and drains.

And the dangers that Japanese Knotweed can cause to homeowners have been illustrated in a recent Daily Mail survey:

  • Homeowners are facing bills of up to £20,000 to remove plants before they can sell.
  • Japanese Knotweed can grow more than 9ft in just ten weeks and can damage foundations and drains.
  • Barclays Bank declines mortgage applications unless the knotweed is removed

As a specialist professional negligence specialist at Neil Hudgell Solicitors I recently handled a case of Japanese Knotweed in a house sale.  Our client found a house he liked and after putting in an offer to buy it a detailed valuation report was conducted by a surveyor. As the survey came back without any concerns, the purchase went ahead and our client duly moved in.

However, not long afterwards, our client noticed a mass of green plants in the garden. After conducting some research he found out it was Japanese Knotweed which hadn’t been detected in the survey.

He faced a hefty bill to have the plants removed, but thankfully the costs of this were covered by a successfully claim for professional negligence which we brought on his behalf.

It’s experiences like this which underline how important it is for all potential homebuyers to ensure the pre-sale survey covers the garden, especially the identification of invasive plants such as Japanese Knotweed, as well as just the property itself.

The difficulty is that surveyors often concentrate on the interior and structure of the property, whilst ignoring serious dangers which can be just a few yards away in the garden.

Neil Hudgell Solicitors are committed to our clients and not afraid to fight for your personal injury, medical negligence or professional negligence compensation claim.

More about Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed was introduced from Japan in 1825 as an ornamental plant. The plant is not unattractive but its rapid annual growth and relentless spread, allows it to easily overwhelm other garden plants. Where established as a wayside weed, native plants are also aggressively over-run.

Although it does not produce seeds, it can sprout from very small sections of rhizomes and, under the provisions made within the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is an offence to cause Japanese knotweed to grow in the wild. Much of its spread is probably via topsoil movement or construction traffic.

So what happens if you do find Japanese Knotweed in your garden?

The Environment Agency website offers the following tips:

  • If you do see it in your garden, it is best to try to eradicate it before it begins to colonise the whole plot. The most practical solution is to use a strong glyphosate-based weed killer but, even with this, several treatments are usually necessary.’
  • Spray with glyphosate weed killer in May, when the plant is around 90cm high, then apply again in mid-summer and again in September before it begins to die down in autumn. Keep the spray away from garden plants. Any regrowth needs to be re-treated.
  • You’ll need to work at this for several seasons to get results.Dig It Out – remove as much of the root as you can but it will regrow. Burn it on site. If you choose to remove it, the plant is classed as ‘controlled waste’ under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, and should be disposed of at a licenced landfill site. Never include it with normal household waste.

More information at:

http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/wildlife/130079.aspx

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2358599/Alien-eating-garden-home–And-dont-dare-try-kill-dreaded-Japanese-knotweed.html

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