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Is your garden hiding every homeowners worst nightmare?

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In the world of conveyancing, there are a number of things for both current and prospective homeowners to be aware of.  One of these problems is the invasive species of plant, Japanese Knotweed (fallopia japonica). 

Japanese Knotweed is an extremely fast growing plant which can cause structural damage to a home.  It can also lead to legal action being taken against a homeowner if left untreated.  It starts growing from early spring and can reach heights of 3 – 4 metres in a season. It then begins to die back in September/November each year.  The plant is so destructive, it can grow through concrete and tarmac.

If you are not an expert, it is not always easy to be able to identify Japanese Knotweed.  Things to look out for, according to the GB Non-Native Species Secretariat:

•    Large shield shaped lush green leaves which are arranged in a zig-zag pattern
•    A hollow stem which resembles bamboo
•    A rhizome crown at the base of the plant
•    Clusters of cream flowers towards the end of July
•    Dies back between September and November, leaving brown stems.

If you are a homeowner and notice that you have Japanese Knotweed at your property, it is essential that you arrange to eradicate it as soon as possible. There are a number of options for removal but some methods are more successful than others. 

The main options available to you are:

Dig it Out
You could attempt to dig out the Japanese Knotweed. However it has very long and strong roots which could be difficult to remove completely. Unless the entire root is removed, the plant is likely to regrow and the problem will remain.

If you do decide to dig it out, please be aware that the disposal of the plant is classed as “controlled waste” under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.  This means that it can only be disposed of at licensed landfill sites.

Spray with Chemicals
A further option which is likely to be more successful would be to spray the plant with chemicals.  Please note that only approved herbicides can be used in the treatment of Japanese Knotweed and other non native invasive species.  The spray treatment is likely to be expensive and time consuming and it is not uncommon for a patch of Japanese Knotweed to need more than one spray treatment before it is eradicated.

If you notice Japanese Knotweed growing at your property, there is no specific obligation on you to remove it.  However, you could be prosecuted or given a Community Protection Notice for causing a nuisance if you allow it to spread and grow on anyone else’s property.

If you are purchasing a property, it is advisable to check for signs of the presence of Japanese Knotweed.  Where the plant is present, it can have an effect on the marketability and value of the property and would also make it more difficult to obtain a mortgage. If you purchase a property and after completion you discover Japanese Knotweed is present, you will take on responsibility for the treatment and removal of the plant.

In summary, when purchasing a property it is always advisable to check for the existence of Japanese Knotweed. If you are unable to identify the plant yourself, you would need to instruct a professional who would be able to check and advise on whether the plant is present.

If you would like advice, please contact me or a member of our Conveyancing team.