A weed ‘knot’ to be ignored – liability for Japanese knotweed
Homeowners need to be aware of an important recent decision about a particularly dangerous weed. The Court of Appeal held that Network Rail was liable to pay damages in respect of Japanese Knotweed that was encroaching from the side of the railway onto neighbouring residential property.
Japanese Knotweed is a pernicious weed that spreads rapidly. The roots can break through concrete and foundations causing a lot of damage. Eradication requires a specialist, as it‘s very hard to remove manually or eradicate with chemicals. In this case, Network Rail had actually carried out some treatment but the court found it to be inadequate. Japanese knotweed has become increasingly well known in recent years, and is viewed as such a problematic weed that legislation covers its control and removal. The mere presence of Japanese knotweed in or even near domestic gardens can make it difficult to get a mortgage which can seriously impact upon the marketability and value of affected property.
Mr Williams and Mr Waistell (the homeowners) owned two adjoining semi-detached bungalows in South Wales. Network Rail owned the land immediately behind the two bungalows. Japanese knotweed had been present on the embankment for at least 50 years. It was reputedly imported because of its powerful root system to shore up steep railway embankments. The home owners succeeded in their claims both at the County Court and in the Court of Appeal, but for different reasons. One of the interesting features of this case was that there was no evidence of any physical damage to the bungalows, nor of any change in the soil structure.
The County Court confirmed that the homeowners had a claim in private nuisance because they had suffered a loss of enjoyment through the diminution in value of their properties (as a result of lender caution in such situations). Although the homeowners also succeeded in the Court of Appeal, the legal analysis was different.
It confirmed that the homeowners could not bring a claim merely because the market value of the properties had been affected. It stated that Japanese knotweed is a classic example of an interference with the amenity value of the land. The homeowners were entitled to damages because the very presence of the weed (or even just its roots) had affected their ability to enjoy their properties. In addition to the risk of future physical damage to existing buildings, the presence of the weed would make it more difficult and probably more expensive to develop the land, should the owner wish to do so in the future. This is because soil contaminated by Japanese knotweed is controlled waste under environmental legislation and requires specialist removal.
Points to note
Correct identification is important as the weed can easily be confused with other plants - there is also a particular variant of Japanese knotweed that is less troublesome. You will need to call in the professionals if you need to remove Japanese knotweed from your land. The PCA Invasive Weed Control Group provides a register of vetted consultants and contractors who are Japanese knotweed specialists. This issue must also be addressed if you are buying or selling land and is covered by the standard pre-contract enquiries that the buyer’s solicitor should raise.
This is a welcome decision in that it confirms that landowners can recover damages in respect of land blighted by Japanese knotweed. However, it also serves a warning that you must not ignore the presence of this weed on your land, or you may face liability to neighbouring landowners.
This article was written by William Marriott. If you would like to speak to him about any aspect of buying, selling or owning a house, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on +44 (0) 1483 252 519
Charles Russell Speechlys promotes five to Partner
The promotions are effective 1 May 2021 and are accompanied by one Legal Director and 15 Senior Associate promotions.
Building Back Better: Future Gazing
What’s next for the hospitality industry post-pandemic?
Building Back Better: Re-examining your proposition
Why hospitality businesses should re-examine their proposition now
Building Back Better: Real Estate and Restructuring
How and why should hospitality businesses re-structure post pandemic?
Electrical safety standards in the private rented sector from 1 April 2021
The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector will apply to existing specified tenancies from 1 April 2021.
UK property market continues to thrive
Property Patter: cohabitees and property rights - what do couples need to think about?
It is easy to drift into complicated territory when it comes to property arrangements between a couple
Hayley Lalsing and Laura Sheftel write for Property Law Journal on the Electrical Safety Standards in the private rented sector
The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector Regulations 2020 will apply to existing specified tenancies from 1 April 2021.
EWS1 Forms - the latest episode
RICS have now published their highly anticipated guidance on when EWS1 forms will be required.
High Court finds former unmarried couple hold weekend home as beneficial joint tenants (despite just one funding the whole £1,550,000 purchase price)
Knight Frank Wealth Report: The Global Perspective on Prime Property & Investment
Knight Frank partners joined Charles Russell Speechlys for a virtual panel-led discussion on the Knight Frank Wealth Report
Case Study: One Blackfriars Limited
An informative and positive judgment for administrators selling high-value property in distressed and complex scenarios.
Charles Russell Speechlys advises Content+Cloud on acquisition of Sipcom
The acquisition establishes Content+Cloud as a global service provider to UK businesses.
Thomas Moran has been quoted in the Evening Standard on the stamp duty surcharge on foreign homebuyers
Foreign buyers of property worth more than £1.5m will be subject to a 17 per cent tax rate from April 2021.
What does the Brexit Deal mean for the Construction Industry? Still some serious snagging issues
As the UK leaves the European Union, what does it mean for the Construction Industry?
Getting your due diligence right: top tips for first-time sellers
Property Patter: The “bubble wrap” option – FAQs on tenant administration
The team look at some key points on tenant administration.
William Marriott quoted by The Telegraph on the impact of Land Registry delays on the UK property market
Home buyers and sellers are at risk of missing the stamp duty holiday because of hold-ups, which could cause deals to collapse.
Need a holiday? How about extending one?
David Haines and Ingrid Saffin write for Caterer Licensee on the end of the rent moratorium
With the rent moratorium due to end on 31 March, David and Ingrid emphasise the importance of communication with landlords.