Japanese knotweed has a never-die attitude and can be a menace once it attacks your property. A better understanding of the relationship between Japanese Knotweed and the law will allow you to appreciate what implications it can have on you and your property.
This invasive weed plant is unsparing when it comes to dominance, survival and causing destruction on its quest to conquer.
Legally, there is no legal obligation created upon a person to cause the removal or reporting of an infestation once identified in a certain place whether private or publicly owned.
However, if you intentionally or unintentionally allow the weed plant to spread to adjacent lands this can expose you to contractual, civil and criminal implications which are discussed below:
A successful civil liability claim results in compensation to the other party for damage done. When a verdict has been made in favour of the plaintiff, then appropriate monetary damages must be paid to remedy the situation. Japanese knotweed and the law is no exception to the legal implications of civil claims.
Notably, the intrusion of Japanese knotweed from one property to the adjacent lands can invoke civil liability under what is commonly known as a private nuisance claim.
Homeowners have the right to enjoy quiet possession of their property without any interference. Therefore, when one causes or allows the knotweed infestation to spread to the property of another, this is an infringement of their personal property and space.
Important to note is that it is not necessary for the plant to physically attack the neighbouring property for a civil claim to result.
The mere presence of the weed plant in your land could invoke this court suit because one can easily argue that the danger that the threat will cause is imminent unless quick action is taken.
There are cases where neighbours have been sued by their adjacent neighbours for letting Japanese knotweed encroach on their property.
The case of Smith v Line speaks to this issue in detail and has been used as a precedent in most legal suits involving Japanese knotweed disputes where encroachment has been occasioned by the neighbour.
Under civil liability, the person bringing the claim will often sue for misrepresentation which is explained in detail below:
Laws of conveyance demand that the seller of property disclose every detail as regards the property intended for sale. The Law Society Property Information Form TA6 which is normally sent by the buyer’s solicitor to the seller of a house requires that important information as regards the house intended for sale is disclosed and this includes the presence of the knotweed.
Failing to report on such an infestation whether knowingly or unknowingly exposes you to a civil claim. It is your duty to conduct due diligence on the property including carrying out a survey of the land to ensure your potential buyers get the best deal possible.
Based on the foregoing, where it is noted that indeed as the seller you misled the buyer into getting into the deal of purchasing the property, and the buyer relied on your information, then the court in this instance will not hesitate to make a verdict in favour of the buyer against you to make compensation to the buyer for the damage suffered.
Usually, compensation will cover the costs that such a buyer will accrue in treating the knotweed infestation on their property.
In order to evade such civil suits, it is your duty to ensure that you explain to the buyer every detail of the property before they purchase it.
Equally, you must ensure that all persons/agents acting on your behalf are not negligent while representing themselves as your agents to potential buyers because, in the long run, you will bear the responsibility for their actions if it results in damage to the buyer.
Whereas civil liability exposes one to make monetary damages/compensation to the affected party, criminal liability on the other hand is punitive in nature and imposes heavy fines or custodial sentences on any offending persons.
When it comes to Japanese knotweed criminal liability is exhibited when any person causes or allows the growth of Japanese knotweed in the wild.
Even though there is no legal requirement to keep or remove Japanese knotweed from your property, if you expressively cause the weed plant to spread especially in the wild, then this is conduct that will attract criminal culpability.
Taking note that Japanese knotweed is a controlled plant based on its highly invasive nature, the government imposes criminal liability to try and stop the unending spread of the weed plant.
Breaching the foregoing requirement can attract a hefty penalty depending on the severity of the offence or even a custodial sentence.
Other legal and practical implications regarding Japanese knotweed and the law
- Access to mortgage
The right to own property is guaranteed and safeguarded by the law however the presence of Japanese knotweed in a certain piece of property can greatly hamper this right.
Mortgage lenders may not be accommodative to persons intending to take out loans to finance a mortgage that is seemingly under the infestation of Japanese knotweed because the presence of the plant is taken as a high risk to the property.
To this end, persons facing weed plant infestations are either directed to take an insurance-backed guarantee to treat the knotweed infestation or they will not get the financial assistance that they so desire from the lenders.
Certain buyers will also demand that the property be insured against the knotweed infestation. This is an expensive task because it will require a long-term commitment that may not be pocket friendly.
Legally, what this means is that you may be forced to enter into various legal arrangements in order to enjoy the right to ownership of property.
- Value of the property
The infestation of the knotweed has the ability to cause the depreciation of property whether in a minimal or big way depending on the size of the infestation.
Therefore, for one to maintain the value of the property consistent with what the market demands, it is imperative that one initiates treatment programs to facilitate the full eradication of the weed plant and its removal from the infested area as per the legal requirements of the local authorities.
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