A topical subject as of late, law firm Kirwans Solicitors are urging landlords to be vigilant for Japanese knotweed.
A case recently occurred with the resulting ruling in favour of two homeowners who found that the weed had spread to their land from adjoining land owned by Network Rail.
Stephen Williams and Robin Waistell sued the rail company, after discovering the plant and its origin, resulting in £15,000 in damages being awarded to each of them.
Since then, this ruling has brought the situation to the attention of many. Landlords who do not check the surrounding area thoroughly during property inspections may leave themselves open to law suits, if the plant does take root on their land and spread to neighbouring properties.
David Kirwan said: “I have acted for clients making and defending claims for invasion by this pernicious weed and seen first-hand the distress it can cause both those from whose garden it originates and those battling the weed once it spreads onto their land.
“Japanese knotweed can grow through foundations and brick walls, can make properties unsellable and mortgage companies unwilling to lend on them, and can leave the owner of the property from which it has originated wide open to being sued as a result, so it’s vital to identify and spot it as soon as possible.
“Unfortunately, landlords who rent out their property are often reliant on their tenants to inform them of any problems, and with Japanese knotweed not widely recognised across the UK, the weed could have taken firm hold before anyone is even aware of its presence.”
However, another opinion on the seriousness of the weed has been put forward. Research by the University of Leeds and engineering firm Aecom found nothing to suggest that Japanese knotweed actually causes significant damage to buildings.
Nevertheless, there is still the issue that many do not even know how to identify it. Recent research commissioned by Environet, the Japanese knotweed removal firm, has revealed that less than 19% of Brits questioned in a survey were aware of the weed and can correctly identify it.
Mr Kirwan said: “Those landlords buying and selling properties should be extra vigilant about Japanese knotweed, as sellers must disclose its presence on the TA6 form.
“It is an offence not to do so, and buyers may choose to take legal action against vendors if it is later found to be present.
“If you suspect Japanese knotweed is present on one of your properties, contact a Japanese knotweed removal specialist, who will confirm whether the plant is present or not.
“Those who believe Japanese knotweed have caused damage should seek expert legal advice as a matter of urgency.”
Tips on how to identify Japanese knotweed:
- Bamboo-like, purple and red stem;
- Clusters of creamy-white flowers in the summer that attract bees;
- Large, heart or spade-shaped green leaves;
- Leaves arranged in a zig-zag pattern along the stem;
- Dies back between September and November, leaving brown stems.