Invasive plants like Japanese Knotweed can pose a serious threat to biodiversity, and the structural integrity of buildings.
Japanese Knotweed is a key issue on the purchase, sale or lease of a property, and infestations can lead to neighbour disputes and litigation.
Else Solicitors’ Commercial Property and Dispute Resolution teams are experts at handling legal issues relating to Japanese Knotweed and other invasive plants.
What is Japanese Knotweed?
Introduced from Japan in the 19th century, Japanese Knotweed is a non-native invasive plant and like others including Himalayan Balsam and Giant Hogweed threatens our native biodiversity and can cause damage to buildings and agriculture.
Its root system is:
- Extensive – the rhizome root system typically grows to 3m in depth and 7m in all other directions;
- Hidden – the plant rises up high (as much as 3 or 4m) at one location and then (from the same root system) a further shoot can rise up to 15m away; and
- Resilient – a new shoot can easily sprout from a small section of rhizome (as little as 0.7 g).
Who is responsible?
The owner and/or occupier of land can be held responsible if Japanese Knotweed spreads to neighbouring land, if it is disposed of incorrectly, or if contaminated soil is removed to other sites. They could be liable to a claim for damages or even prosecution.
Japanese Knotweed should only be treated or removed by a specialist contractor.
If you think that you (or your neighbours) have an infestation, the first thing you should do is obtain legal advice and obtain a specialist survey to determine if the weed is Japanese Knotweed.
How our commercial property solicitors can help
If you are buying a property where Japanese Knotweed is present, our commercial property solicitors can assist you with raising the necessary enquiries with the seller, including obtaining sight of any knotweed treatment and management plan. If specialist contractors have been engaged to treat the weed we will advise you on whether you will have the benefit of any guarantees provided by them after completion of the purchase. We will also advise your mortgage lender as to any outstanding risks to you and them.
If you are selling a property which you know is affected by Japanese Knotweed, you are obliged to reveal this as otherwise you may be subject to a claim from the buyer for misrepresentation after completion, which could be costly.
If you are considering granting or taking a lease of a commercial property where Japanese Knotweed may be present, we will advise you on who is responsible for its management under the Lease.
How our dispute resolution solicitors can help
Failure to dispose of plants like Japanese Knotweed effectively and safely can leave homeowners or companies facing substantial fines. Some individuals may face two years in prison for Japanese Knotweed offences, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
If you have an issue with a neighbour who has an invasive plant that has encroached onto your land, then we can help establish their liability and whether they have failed to control the plant. Our dispute resolution solicitors can take legal action on your behalf and may be able to force your neighbour to deal with the Japanese Knotweed. In these cases you can often recover costs for the damage caused and your legal fees.
Similarly, if you are concerned that you have Japanese Knotweed growing on your property we can represent you or your company and help protect your liability. Properties situated next to and along railway lines, rivers and canals are often the worst affected, along with large expansions of land that have been left unattended for substantial periods of time.
If you would like to discuss your case, please contact us on 01283 526200.