Many landlords are familiar with Japanese Knotweed and the menace that the plant poses for property owners.
Typically, the plant is in full bloom in the summer and is characterised by its unusual zig zag stem growth, its heart shaped leaves and its white clustered flowers. The stems are one of the defining features of the plant and when the stems are split open the stems appear hollow.
In the winter (see image below) the leaves and flowers die back but the zig-zag shaped stems remain. What makes the plant special is its hardiness and its resistance to attempts at removal or treatment. The disposal of the plant away from the contaminated land can now only be carried out by licensed removal contractors at licenced landfill sites.
Individuals who find themselves in the unenviable position of having Japanese Knotweed on their land will find that sellers are put off from purchasing the land without a formal treatment plan in place.
Mortgage lenders have also been historically unwilling to lend when there is a presence of Japanese Knotweed on the mortgaged property’s land. Seller’s are obliged to notify prospective purchasers of the existence of Japanese Knotweed on the land of the Property being sold at question 7.8 on the Seller’s Property Information Form (known as form TA6).
The plant has been the subject of fierce litigation in 2017 and the Cardiff County Court found in favour of two property owners who lived next to a railway track controlled by Network Rail. Japanese Knotweed was found to be growing on the land that was controlled by Network Rail and that the presence of the Japanese Knotweed had had a detrimental impact on the value of neighbouring properties (i.e. the properties owned by Waistell and Williams).
In February 2017 the Cardiff County Court gave its decision in the joined case of Williams v Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd  UK CC (the case is also known as Waistell v Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd). Network Rail was ordered to compensate the Claimants and the Judgment awarded the Claimants’ the cost of the knotweed surveys, treatment programmes, insurance backed guarantees, the diminution in the value of the Claimants’ properties after the treatment had occurred and general damages for loss of amenity and interference with quiet enjoyment.
Since that decision Network Rail have appealed to the Court of Appeal in Central London and a further hearing looks set to be heard in 2018.
When the case is finally heard by the Court of Appeal we will be able to answer questions that arise in Japanese Knotweed disputes, namely:
- Does the presence of Japanese Knotweed on a neighbouring property’s land constitute an actionable interference? (i.e. even where there is no physical damage to the claimant’s property)
- What should the appropriate levels of compensation be in these cases? (diminution in property value, damages for loss of amenity and interference with quiet enjoyment)
The Plant in Winter
What is clear is that the days of allowing these non-native, invasive plants to grow unchecked on land are over. If you live next to a neighbour who is allowing Japanese Knotweed to grow on their land, you need to contact specialist Japanese Knotweed Solicitors get clear guidance on the advisable course of action.
Author – Tom Lathom of Summerfield Browne Solicitors – www.summerfieldbrowne.com