Q: I am about to sell my property and have noticed some Japanese Knotweed growing in my garden. Can you explain my obligations and responsibilities regarding this?
A: Japanese Knotweed is a problem because it can cause physical damage to buildings and land and affect the value of property, its marketability and insurability. It can be expensive and hard to get rid of and can result in criminal and civil liabilities for those who have land on which this plant is growing.
There is a specific question in the Property Information Form, if you are selling your property, which you will be required to complete, disclosing knotweed information to your purchaser. Failure to be honest about the knotweed could lead to a subsequent claim being made by your purchaser for misrepresentation. You must speak to your solicitor about this.
You are not obliged to control, remove, eradicate or treat the knotweed BUT failure to take reasonable measures to control it spreading into the wild could amount to an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
If you allow knotweed to spread to adjacent property you could be liable to your neighbour for nuisance at common law or statutory nuisance and have to pay them compensation for loss of enjoyment, costs of removal of the knotweed and a continuing injunction against infestation.
It is always advisable to deal with knotweed as soon as possible to prevent extensive infestation which will be more costly to manage or eradicate. Removal of knotweed is subject to strict waste disposal control.
There are various statutory controls by which environmental authorities or the Local Authority can take action to manage and control the spread knotweed on your property. Failure to adhere to these statutory controls on conviction can result in imprisonment or fine. The Environment Agency has a knotweed Code of Practice which explains the steps you should take to manage your knotweed problem.