Landlords are being urged to check the gardens of their properties for Japanese knotweed following a recent landmark ruling in favour of two homeowners who sued after the weed spread on to their land.
David Kirwan, managing partner and head of dispute resolution at Kirwans law firm, is calling for landlords to scour any land attached to their properties for the aggressive weed following the outcome of the case.
The Court of Appeal ruled that the Japanese knotweed that had spread into Stephen Williams and Robin Waistell’s gardens from adjoining land owned by Network Rail was a ‘natural hazard’, and each man was awarded around £15,000 in damages as a result.
The ruling has opened the floodgates for more homeowners to sue over the weed; and with the plant rapidly spreading across the country, more landlords than ever could be at risk of having legal action taken against them as a result.
David Kirwan said: “I have acted for clients making and defending claims for invasion by this pernicious weed and seen first-hand the distress it can cause both those from whose garden it originates and those battling the weed once it spreads onto their land.
“Japanese knotweed can grow through foundations and brick walls, can make properties unsellable and mortgage companies unwilling to lend on them, and can leave the owner of the property from which it has originated wide open to being sued as a result, so it’s vital to identify and spot it as soon as possible.
“Unfortunately, landlords who rent out their property are often reliant on their tenants to inform them of any problems, and with Japanese knotweed not widely recognised across the UK, the weed could have taken firm hold before anyone is even aware of its presence.”
With recent research commissioned by knotweed removal firm Environet revealing that fewer than 19% of Brits who say they are aware of Japanese knotweed being unable to correctly identify it, thousands of people could unwittingly be selling properties affected by the plant.
The same research found that only 36% of respondents knew they could be sued for allowing Japanese knotweed to grow on to a neighbouring property, and just 18% realised the offence could result in prosecution under an anti-social behaviour order.
"Japanese knotweed can grow through foundations and brick walls, can make properties unsellable and mortgage companies unwilling to lend on them."
Mr Kirwan said: “Those landlords buying and selling properties should be extra vigilant about Japanese knotweed, as sellers must disclose its presence on the TA6 form.
“It is an offence not to do so, and buyers may choose to take legal action against vendors if it is later found to be present.
“If you suspect Japanese knotweed is present on one of your properties, contact a Japanese knotweed removal specialist, who will confirm whether the plant is present or not.
“Those who believe Japanese knotweed have caused damage should seek expert legal advice as a matter of urgency.”
How to spot Japanese knotweed
· Bamboo-like, purple and red stem;
· Clusters of creamy-white flowers in the summer that attract bees;
· Large, heart or spade-shaped green leaves;
· Leaves arranged in a zig-zag pattern along the stem;
· Dies back between September and November, leaving brown stems.
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