Why landowners and developers can’t afford to ignore Japanese knotweed

August 23, 2017

This super-weed is invasive, damaging and potentially extremely costly, warns law firm Furley Page

Any gardener will tell you that weeds are everywhere at this time of year, whether it be public spaces or private gardens. Most of them are simply irritating and, perhaps, unsightly.

But the one that is most feared by commercial property owners and developers is Japanese knotweed – an invasive, damaging and potentially extremely costly super-weed.

As Liz Brady, Partner at legal firm Furley Page, explains, Japanese knotweed came to this country in the Victorian era as an ornamental plant. But it has become a nasty problem because of its speed of growth and ability to reproduce. It damages buildings and road surfaces and lenders may refuse to provide mortgage finance until it is removed.

It is important for developers to treat the problem before construction starts on a development site. This may mean removing all affected soil and installing physical barriers beneath the buildings.

Legislation is in place to try and curb its detrimental impact. It is a criminal offence to plant Japanese knotweed, cause it to grow in the wild or allow it to grow uncontrolled on your property. It is classified as controlled waste under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and land owners can be fined if they do not dispose of it correctly. Land owners with Japanese knotweed can even be held liable to pay damages to adjoining properties for adversely affecting their land values.

Legal indemnity insurance is available on purchases of commercial property which covers lending institutions against surveys, treatment and expenses for sites and legal expenses for defending against claims from third parties affected by the spread of Japanese knotweed.

It is a problem not to be ignored given the potential penalties and costs. If you are a developer then you should check for any signs of Japanese knotweed both at the site and on adjoining land and seek professional advice. If you have the problem on your own land already then you should be aware of the issues and obligations on you to treat and deal with it in accordance with the law.

Finally, it is recommended that you check the government website which was last updated in April 2017 for guidance: www.gov.uk/guidance/prevent-japanese-knotweed-from-spreading

Liz has written a blog giving more detail about the problems, legislation and possible treatments for Japanese knotweed which can be found here >

Liz has extensive experience of advising clients on a range of property transactions and is a member of the Commercial Real Estate Legal Association and the Kent Law Society.

For more information and advice on property issues contact Liz Brady by email at efb@furleypage.co.uk or call 01227 763939.