When selling or buying a house with Japanese Knotweed, it is essential that you are aware of the law that surrounds it. There are new rules that will shortly be implemented, and it is paramount that you are aware of these very important changes.
Is your property affected by Japanese Knotweed? Will you be able to sell your property? Will you be able to purchase the property down the road from where it is present? What about a mortgage lender? Is the presence of Japanese Knotweed acceptable to them?
Continue reading to answer some of these important questions in Labrums’ guide to Japanese Knotweed.
What is Japanese Knotweed?
Japanese Knotweed is an invasive plant which has acquired a reputation over the years and been blamed for causing damage to properties. It was introduced from Japan in 1850, it reproduces rapidly and can grow up to 10cm in a day.
I want to sell my house and have Japanese Knotweed present, can I leave it?
It is not a crime to have Japanese Knotweed present on your property, but it has been legally classed as a controlled plant under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 section 114 (2) (WCA 1981). Therefore, it is against UK law to cause a nuisance by allowing it to grow onto another property. Failure to control the spread of Japanese Knotweed could result in an anti-social behaviour order as well as a fine up to £2,500.00.
Given how quickly it can grow, it is very important to have a management plan in place if it is present at your property as it would only be a matter of time before it worked its way outside of your boundary. If you are selling to a buyer that will need to obtain a mortgage, it is likely (whether there is a management plan in place or not) that the matter will have to be referred to their lender for approval. Depending on the position, it could be hard for you to sell to a buyer that is obtaining a mortgage and cash buyers may be your only option which means that the pool of available buyers to you will be smaller.
Does Japanese Knotweed stop you from getting a mortgage?
Infestations of Japanese Knotweed can make a mortgage application more difficult. Some lenders have refused to lend where it is present within the boundary of the property or even if it is present within the vicinity of the property. Of course, it is prudent to physically inspect any property you wish to purchase and, in addition, to seek confirmation from a qualified Surveyor that there is not any present.
Some lenders will lend as long as there is an eradication plan in place. Every lender has their own policies, requirements and regulations and your solicitor would need to refer the specific position to your lender to obtain their consent to proceed. There is a 7-metre rule which states that if Japanese Knotweed is found to be growing within 7 metres of the boundary of the property, a mortgage will likely not be offered. The purpose is to protect the lender should the knotweed have any impact on the value of the property.
New changes to the current Japanese Knotweed Law
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) have scrapped the 7-metre rule that valuers use when determining whether Japanese Knotweed poses a threat to a property. The RICS guidance note explains the full changes to the Japanese Knotweed law in further detail.
The move comes after a 2019 report by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee where mortgage lenders as well as MPs advised that the current rules were ‘over cautious’. RICS advised within their guidance note that ‘research has demonstrated, and it is now generally accepted, that Japanese Knotweed poses little or no risk of structural damage to robust buildings with substantial foundations such as dwellings, as opposed to less sturdy structures with shallow foundations, such as conservatories, garages, or boundary walls’.
The body says: “There is also a recognition that the most appropriate objective when Japanese knotweed is encountered is to ensure an appropriate level of control rather than to automatically strive for eradication. In some circumstances, for example when construction is proposed, proper control may involve physical removal but in many domestic situations effective control can be achieved by the managed application of herbicides. As part of normalising expectations in relation to Japanese knotweed, the assessment directs the valuer or surveyor to outcomes related to the management of Japanese knotweed rather than emphasising risk to buildings.”
Further Japanese Knotweed legal advice
As conveyancing solicitors, we are unable to inspect your property. However, when the time comes to buying a property, our expert solicitors will raise the necessary questions if the sellers cannot be sure if Japanese Knotweed is present. Get in touch today for coherent Japanese Knotweed legal advice to help guide you through the process.
Protect yourself – Protect your asset – Protect your future.