Financial & Legal News

Buying a house with Japanese Knotweed in Winter

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If you’re buying a property with a garden this winter it pays to get a good surveyor involved, and ask the right questions to make sure what’s lurking below the soil does not affect the resale of your property further down the line.

As we begin to get our gardens ready for winter a perennial problem in the buying and selling process is Japanese Knotweed, which along with lots of other plants dies back in the winter months and so it is much harder to spot.

Selling a house with Japanese Knotweed

Buyers rely on sellers to declare instances of the weed and need a competent surveyor to identify if a property is affected.

As a seller you have legal responsibilities in regards to knotweed growing on your land and must act accordingly or risk an unexpected date in court or a run-in with the local council. A failure to control Japanese Knotweed on your property can result in prosecution and fines of up to £2,500.

Along with a host of other things as advised by your solicitor, the garden is also an important part of the sale process.

“Japanese knotweed is a problem for homeowners and if you are selling your house you have a duty to declare if your garden and surrounding area are, or have previously been, affected by Japanese Knotweed when completing the Law Society’s TA6 form. This is a matter of due diligence on all parts,” said residential conveyancing solicitor, Michelle Ong.

“We sometimes see sellers failing to properly complete the Japanese knotweed question accurately, whether this is an intentional attempt to conceal the problem or they are genuinely unaware.  Similarly, if you have bought a house that’s affected by Japanese knotweed and only find out a few months later when the plan starts to appear, and can show the seller was not accurate about Japanese knotweed affecting the property, you can pursue a claim of misrepresentation.

“In addition your surveyor should check the area surrounding your property, including neighbours, for any signs or evidence of Japanese knotweed,” advised Michelle Ong.

Diminution of value

In the winter months when the plant goes underground it is easily concealed, but come spring with new growth comes new problems for homeowners, as an infestation within 7 meters may cause loss or devaluation to the property, if this is the case potential purchasers may struggle to get a mortgage. The property could then be worth less and this is known as diminution of value and a claim could then be forthcoming in any settlement. A claim can also be made against the surveyor for ‘professional negligence’ if it is found they should have noticed the knotweed.

Whilst The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) have made some changes to their guidance in March 2022, specifically scrapping the 7 meter rule to 3 meter, the mortgage lenders have not. Solicitors acting for a buyer will still need to refer to Lender’s handbook for specific requirements by each Lender.

Seller disclosure statement

If you have asked for disclosure from the sellers and still have reservations, as a potential buyer you could get some further reassurance with a professional survey.  If knotweed is discovered on the property or in the vicinity you can withdraw from the purchase or ask for a lower price to reflect the risk and impact on future value.  Professional removal of the knotweed can then be completed at a later date when the leaves are exposed and it is possible to treat it.

“Japanese knotweed is not an illegal plant, but there are legal consequences that come with it if you allow it to spread from your property,” warned Michelle.

For advice on all aspects of buying and selling property call our team on 0161 785 3500 or

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

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