Are you worried about the impact of Japanese Knotweed on your property? This article by Stuart Snape, Managing Partner at Graham Coffey & Co. Solicitors, explains what you need to look out for, how to deal with Japanese knotweed, and your legal rights should this invasive plant become a problem.
What is Japanese Knotweed?
Japanese knotweed – also known by it’s Latin name, Fallopia Japonica – is a feared perennial plant. With hollow bamboo-like stems and broad oval leaves, it spreads quicker than butter on warm toast.
Of course it’s almost Christmas, and during the winter months the plant dies back to ground level. Unfortunately, by early summer it will be back with a vengeance.
The roots grow deep underground, and can spread by more than seven metres. The plant itself shoots vigorously upwards, tearing through foundations, patios and fences.
If you’re not confident about identifying Japanese knotweed, the RHS has more details on it’s appearance and common plants it can be mistaken for.
Why is Japanese Knotweed a problem plant?
Due to its ability to spread quickly, Japanese knotweed has caught the attention of property owners, who are all too aware of the dangers it can pose when it growing near their property.
It is widely accepted that if you can find Japanese knotweed growing within seven metres of your property, then you should seek legal advice.
The reason for this is simple. The closer the plant is to your property, the greater the risk that the root system has spread underneath the boundary and onto your land.
Equally importantly, once the weed is within seven metres of your property, it is likely to be highlighted on any home buyers’ survey. In almost all cases this will make getting a mortgage on the property or selling the property more difficult.
This can mean only one thing: a reduction in the value of your property. In many cases it is accepted that this reduction can be as high as 10% of the total property value.
What to do if you find Japanese Knotweed
It is vital you seek specialist legal advice the moment you identify Japanese knotweed alongside your property.
In the first instance, you will be appointed a local expert to visit your property, to establish whether the weed has indeed encroached onto your property. Remember, in many cases this occurs beneath the ground, so do not be complacent if you can’t physically see it on your property.
A simple search can be carried out by your legal advisors to find out who owns the adjoining land. They have a duty to control the spread of Japanese knotweed. Your solicitor will present details of the encroachment to them and seek not only an agreement to remove the weed, but also to compensate you for the loss of property value.
Even if you have no intention of selling your home, the very fact that your property would be worth less is enough to justify the payment of compensation for your “loss of enjoyment”.
UK Japanese Knotweed Hotspots
Japanese knotweed is more likely to be found in certain areas of the UK; this article lists the major hotspots.
While it can grow literally anywhere and everywhere, it is particularly prevalent on embankments, especially alongside railways. Network Rail has allowed the plant to spread over decades, to the extent that it can be found alongside most railway lines.
If your home borders a railway line, then you should keep an eye open for this damaging plant. Often high fences can hide the growth from view until it is too late. You should always check behind your fencing, but make sure you do so from your own property. Trespassing onto railway lines is both illegal and dangerous.
Removing Japanese Knotweed
Japanese knotweed is tricky to thoroughly remove, due to the fact that the roots reach deep underground and for long distances. DIY weed removal methods include digging out, smothering with tarpaulin, and spraying with weedkiller.
It’s absolutely vital that you don’t dispose of any part of the plant in your normal household or green waste; it must be disposed of at licensed landfill sites. For this reason you may want to consider using a specialist disposal company to deal with the situation.
Have you had to deal with Japanese knotweed? Do you have any tips for managing the problem?