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Japanese knotweed is a significant and topical problem across the country for owners of residential and commercial properties. It is estimated to be the cause of around £170 million of home repairs every year.
The Court of Appeal recently considered the problem in Network Rail Infrastructure Limited v Williams & Waistell (2018) and found Network Rail responsible for failing to take steps to prevent Japanese knotweed from blighting residential properties lying close to its railway embankment. The two claimants were awarded approximately £15,000 each for the cost of surveys and treatment and also for the diminution (reduction) in the value of their properties, even though no actual physical damage had been caused to their properties. The Court held that the mere presence of Japanese knotweed constituted a nuisance and allowed the awards to stand on the basis that they fairly compensated the claimants for their loss of quiet enjoyment and amenity.
In addition, Bristol City Council recently prosecuted a landowner under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 following complaints from adjoining properties that the landowner had failed to prevent the spread of Japanese knotweed. The landowner was fined £18,000 plus costs and was also required to remedy the knotweed problem.
As there is now judicial recognition that Japanese knotweed is detrimental to the enjoyment of property, landowners need to be aware that a failure to deal with the presence of this invasive plant could lead to a costly claim in nuisance and/or a criminal prosecution. It can also seriously affect the landowners ability to sell, let or mortgage their property. It can be difficult to spot but once you know it is on your land you cannot hide it – surveyors are trained to identify it and sellers are bound to disclose it to Buyers.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.