If you have just bought a house with Japanese knotweed, it is possible to find yourself facing unprecedented hazards and potential pitfalls, which if overlooked may lead to greater damage.
Worryingly, unscrupulous sellers will often try to downplay any fact that may hinder them from selling the property to you.
One of the most downplayed issues is the presence of Japanese knotweed within the property because the seller understands that if this information is disclosed, it may hinder the sale.
In instances where the seller lied about the Japanese knotweed presence, and you discover that the weed plant actually exists within the property, this can be detrimental because it implies that you have been duped into buying an infested property.
The worst-case scenario is discovering the presence of the weed plant many months later after you have moved in because in such a scenario chasing down the sellers will be a hard job that may end up being fruitless.
Importantly, the minute you identify the presence of Japanese knotweed in property that you acquired from a seller, you need to conduct due diligence as soon as possible to identify the source of the infestation and conclude whether you were misled in the lead up so that you can buy the house.
Is it necessary to declare/disclose Japanese knotweed on the property information form?
This mainly depends on the manner in which a person chooses to acquire the property. If you do it informally, then the seller is not obligated to disclose this information unless they do it with goodwill.
However, where the transaction follows the normal conveyancing procedure (modus operandi) which requires the filling of the TA6 form, then every detail about the property should be disclosed.
Conveyance forms are legally binding upon the parties to an agreement and any misrepresentation on such documents can be penalized by the law.
Basically, the information form affords the seller the opportunity to come clean and disclose any form of infestation by the Japanese knotweed among other things that they have full knowledge about as regards the property in question.
If this does not happen, then as the innocent buyer of such a property, you have every legal right to raise this issue through a legal lawsuit and recover damages that will go towards the treatment of the weed plant until its eradication.
What happens in instances where the seller lied about the presence or scope of infestation of the Japanese knotweed?
In instances where you come to contact with deceitful sellers that are not honest as regards the Japanese knotweed affecting your property before you enter into a sale agreement, as the buyer, you have the opportunity to ask for adequate compensation to remedy the same.
This can be done mutually, if agreeable, but if the seller proves difficult, you can also initiate a court action to demand that compensation be effected on the basis that the property was grossly misrepresented to you by the seller and you relied on such information to buy the property.
Can you still claim compensation in instances where the seller did not tell you about the Japanese knotweed?
The nature of any sale agreement is that goodwill and honesty must apply at all material times.
It is obvious that the presence of Japanese knotweed will lead to the value of the property depreciating and more often than not, the severity of the depreciation is dependent on the scope of the infestation of the property.
This means that as a buyer of property, you have every right to claim against any seller who makes no attempt to inform you in advance of the presence of the weed plant in the property before you purchase.
Equally, taking into account that mortgage lending institutions may very well deny a loan to a property owner whose house is infested with the Japanese knotweed where the house itself is supposed to be the collateral.
This means that the consequences a buyer of a house with the weed plant present has to bear are greater and damaging, as such, necessitating legal action for compensation on the basis of non-disclosure where necessary.
What about previous owners? Can you claim compensation?
Simply put, yes you can. However, the determining factor that you should bear in mind is whether the previous owner of such property had knowledge as regards the infestation of the Japanese knotweed in the property but chose to mislead you or misrepresent the information otherwise, by saying that no infestation was present.
A previous property owner has a duty of care of ensuring that you get to enjoy the peace and quiet possession of the property with all the promised comforts intact.
Where the previous owner negates this duty, then you can make a compensation claim against them for the purposes of treating the Japanese knotweed until its full eradication.
Can you hold a Surveyor liable where they miss reporting on the Japanese knotweed?
Land surveyors are vital agents when it comes to property purchases. They are supposed to act professionally and conduct a thorough job when it comes to penning down reports and investigations as regards property that is subject to a sale agreement.
This means that they are required to spot any infestation of the weed plant and report failure to which a buyer of the agreement can hold a claim against them on such negligence. Recourse can be against the individual doing the survey or the company they are working under.
When a property is bought under an auction:
Although most assets disposed of through an auction have a ‘buyer beware’ caution, the sellers of houses under an auction are still obligated to declare all the relevant details regarding a property that will enable the buyers to make an informed decision and this includes the presence of the Japanese knotweed.
However, under an auction, you can only maintain a claim against the previous owner of the property and not the auctioneers.
Bought a house with Japanese knotweed?
Protecting the interests of a property owner is a paramount element in any sale agreement.
Therefore, in the event that there is a Japanese knotweed infestation on the property and this information is not disclosed, the party at liberty to reveal such information can be held liable in a compensation claim.
Want to know more about what to do if you have a house with Japanese knotweed?
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