With its red stems and dark green leaves, it is an attractive plant, however, it has become the blight of British homeowners. It grows at a phenomenal rate, is near-impossible to get rid of and has ruined house sales – wiping thousands off property prices. Japanese knotweed, Fallopia Japonica, was brought to Europe from Japan in the mid-nineteenth century by botanist Phillipp von Siebold who found it growing on the sides of volcanoes. Commended for its beauty and potential as animal feed it was named the “most interesting new ornamental plant of the year” in 1847.
In 1850, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew received a shipment from Siebold of various plants from his travels, including a sample of knotweed. By 1854 the plant had been sent to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh and was then sold commercially by nurseries, the result of which was inevitable.
Knotweed can have a drastic effect on residential property sales. Mortgage lenders won’t lend on an affected property unless there is a professional treatment plan in place with an insurance-backed guarantee, so there’s really no option but to confront the problem.
Because of the costs associated with treating knotweed and the stigma attached to the plant it can impact property values, often by as much as 10-15 per cent. Buyers and sellers can get an idea of how much the value of the property might be affected by visiting an online calculator, which takes into account the size of the infestation and how different treatment methods will protect the property’s value.
The presence of knotweed on a property does not need to be a deal breaker but all parties do need to understand and be prepared for what is involved. Two ways to do this is to get a professional Japanese Knotweed Survey & Management Plan report completed and to understand the liabilities Japanese knotweed presents.
A property infested with Japanese knotweed can be difficult to sell. Most buyers would much prefer to buy a knotweed-free property than have to pay out considerable sums to eradicate it. Sellers are legally required to disclose if their property is, or has been, affected by the plant when they complete the Law Society’s TA6 form as part of the standard conveyancing process. Sellers must answer honestly.
If there was a failure to disclose its presence and it’s discovered after the sale has completed, professionals will be able to determine the age of the plant and whether it was there prior to the sale, which could result in an expensive misrepresentation claim. Even if the knotweed is treated professionally prior to marketing the property, it is still a legal requirement to disclose that the property was affected.
In February 2020, The Law Society updated the Property Information Form (TA6). Four areas of property information have been updated. The changes are in relation to: Japanese knotweed, flood risk, radon and septic tanks. The TA6 is used so that the seller can give important information about the property to the prospective buyer. The explanatory notes are intended to help sellers and buyers understand the information that is being requested and supplied. The Law Society’s Conveyancing Protocol requires firms to use the most up-to-date versions of publications. For Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) firms, senior responsible officers are therefore encouraged to introduce the new form as soon as reasonably practicable.
Redbrick Solutions are pleased to offer a complimentary 30-minute training session on Japanese Knotweed on Tuesday 24th November at 11am. Neil Wood, Senior Business Development Manager from CLS Property Insight, will host an informative training session concerning the impact of Japanese Knotweed on conveyancing. This course will help property lawyers understand their options in addressing the issue of Japanese Knotweed on behalf of their clients. You can register here and it will also be available in our Redbrick Academy afterwards.