JAPANESE KNOTWEED – CAN I GET A MORTGAGE?

In the past two months I have had two mortgages declined in Cardiff. The reason? Japanese Knotweed.

In one property, the Japanese Knotweed was 15 foot from the garden boundary wall but still considered a potential nuisance that could cause significant damage, costs or insurance claims in the future. As a result of this, I have conducted my own research in Japanese Knotweed and how it affects property owners in the UK.

What is Japanese Knotweed?

Japanese Knotweed

(Japanese Knotweed image credit: LoopZilla, FlickR)

Japanese Knotweed is an ornamental plant that was introduced into Britain in the 19th Century. It has proven to be an incredibly robust plant that outcompetes many of the UK’s native plants and animals, growing profusely in a widespread range of habitats, including roadsides, riverbanks, gardens and derelict buildings.

It can grow a staggering 10cm a day!

Not to be ignored - Japanese Knotweed has now become an increasing problem for home buyers

This is due to a number of factors.

1)      Councils cutting back on eradication or control due to budget constraints.

2)       An increasing awareness of lenders of the possible effect on their security.

3)      Surveyors actively looking for this weed in gardens and within the close vicinity of the property to avoid possible future claims.

Knotweed and the law

The Environment Agency describes Japanese knotweed as the most invasive species of plant in Britain. Landowners are under a statutory duty to be proactive in the control and eradication of it. All parts of the plant and any soil contaminated with it are classified as controlled waste and must be removed and disposed of by a licensed waste control operator. Here, Chris Alexander, a property litigation lawyer at SA Law, outlines your legal rights:

If you have Japanese knotweed on your land:

It is not an offence to have Japanese knotweed on your land and it is not a notifiable weed. However, under Section 14(1) and (2) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is a criminal offence to plant Japanese knotweed or otherwise cause it to grow in the wild. It is a defence to a prosecution to prove that all reasonable steps were taken and all due diligence was exercised by the landowner.

If your neighbor has Japanese knotweed on their land:

Again, it is not an offence for Japanese knotweed to be present on your neighbour’s land but allowing it to encroach onto your property may constitute a private nuisance under common law.

A landowner affected by knotweed growth from a neighbouring property may therefore be able to apply to court for an injunction requiring the neighbouring owner to abate the nuisance. Such a claim can also include a sum of money in damages to reflect the cost of any physical damage to the property and/or the diminution in value of the landowner's property as a result of the nuisance.

Treatment

The removal, eradication and disposal of the weed may be expensive but given that the presence of it can impede the sale of your property and/or affect the value, a least-risk approach would be to have it removed by licensed contractors and properly disposed of.

Lenders

The lenders are now trying to come to grips with a coherent lending strategy for properties with Japanese Knotweed nearby. Leeds, Woolwich and Santander will automatically decline a mortgage if found the plant is found in the garden.  Woolwich will also decline if it is found close to the property. Halifax, Nationwide and Virgin Money (previously Northern Rock) consider lending with guarantees or an indemnity in place. All lenders will take into account surveyors’ comments.

This area of lending is very fluid and you should contact us for the current position of lenders.

 

Useful websites

Money Advice Service

Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors - Japanese Knotweed

Environment Agency -Japanese Knotweed

 

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