There’s no doubt about it, moving home is stressful. There’s the mad dash to find your perfect home, the worry of getting a mortgage, the mountain of increasingly puzzling paperwork, and the nightmare of packing years of accumulated junk into a tiny van.
The last thing you need while all this is going on is to discover that one little plant could call a halt to the proceedings.
What is Japanese Knotweed?
Japanese Knotweed is an invasive plant species which unsurprisingly came from Japan. The plant was brought to Europe in 1850’s as a curiosity and from there made its way to England, where it’s attractive heart shaped leaves and bamboo like canes earned it favour… at least until it’s less desirable traits were uncovered.
Knotweed is a pernicious plant which grows quickly, creates thick clumps which strangle out any other plant life, and can cause damage to buildings and waterways. It’s also almost impossible to remove without professional help due to its resilience to publicly available herbicides and its ability to re-grow from the tiniest piece of root.
A house seller’s guide to Japanese knotweed
You may have lived in your home for years without noticing the bamboo like plant “doing its thing” nearby, but now you’ve come to sell and a survey has identified it as Japanese knotweed. Even if the knotweed isn’t on your property, this could still cause headaches.
A Mr Waistell found this out the hard way when he tried to sell his South Wales bungalow. Unbeknownst to him, Japanese knotweed had spread onto his property from a nearby railway embankment forcing him to slash the asking price on his property from £130,000 to just £70,000! He is now locked in a legal battle with Network Rail in the hope that they will pay for its removal.
It is an offence to allow Japanese knotweed on your property to spread outside of your property. Doing so could result in fines or in extreme cases a jail sentence. However, there is no law against having Japanese knotweed on your property as long as it is not allowed to spread.
What should you do if you find knotweed?
As Japanese knotweed is fast growing and destructive it is best to get professional knotweed control specialists in immediately to assess the situation and create a plan of action. At this point you will have two choices:
- Have the knotweed treated at your expense. Treatments can be expensive and your property value may not return to the original valuation immediately. However, this will increase your chances of finding a buyer for the best possible price.
- Or, sell your home for the lower valuation. This may be difficult as many buyers will pull out of a sale if knotweed is identified by their survey. Even if your buyer chooses to proceed, mortgage providers are wary of properties with nearby knotweed and will require assurances that work to remove it will be carried out in the near future.
What if the knotweed isn’t on your property?
It isn’t just Japanese knotweed on your own property that you will need to be concerned with. If knotweed is identified in the surrounding area, your property can be affected. This is the case even if the knotweed is in a neighbour’s garden or a nearby plot of land.
Land owners are under no obligation to remove Japanese knotweed so long as they ensure that it doesn’t encroach on other properties. If the land owner or neighbour isn’t willing to have the knotweed removed, you may have no choice but to take the hit to your property price or sit tight and hope that they change their minds.
A buyer’s guide to Japanese knotweed?
Finding out that your dream home is affected by Japanese knotweed can be disheartening but there’s no need to give up your dreams. Most mortgage lenders will now consider lending against homes with knotweed nearby so long as they receive assurances that the knotweed will be removed in the near future and that the work will be covered by a 5 to 10 year warranty.
What should you do if your survey mentions knotweed?
The first thing to do is to stay calm, there’s nothing so bad that it can’t be fixed. Next you will want to do a little investigation. Find out whether the knotweed is located on the property you are purchasing or an adjoining property. If the knotweed is on an adjoining property it would be a good idea to get in touch with the owners to discuss whether they would be happy for it to be removed and get this in writing for your mortgage company.
It may be the case that the property owner isn’t aware of the danger they have lurking on their property. If this is the case you might be able to convince them to share the cost of the removal, or even take on the cost fully.
Be aware that if the land owner refuses to have the knotweed removed regardless of who pays, you may be unable to get an approved mortgage. So, turning up to any discussion with cake and a smile couldn’t hurt!
How is knotweed removed?
There are two tried and tested methods of removing knotweed. The first is to spray the voracious weed with strong herbicides which are not available to the general public. This needs to be done often over a period of time (usually 2 years) to be effective.
A quicker solution is to dig the offending root structure out of the ground, ensuring that there is nothing left. This is more drastic but far quicker. A follow-up of strong herbicides is sometimes required to ensure the knotweed doesn’t come back
Although Japanese knotweed isn’t tracked as such, you can find out if there are any verified sightings in your area via the Plant Tracker map.
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