Japanese Knotweed – Do You Know What’s What?

Japanese knotweed

Are you familiar with the plant Japanese knotweed? For property owners, it can cause serious issues. It can grow to 7ft high, and can potentially damage your drainage systems and house foundations, if it grows too close to your property. Being able to identify it is imperative, as you should act as soon as possible to minimise the damage it might do.

However, despite how serious an issue it can be, Japanese knotweed removal firm Environet has commissioned new research from YouGov, highlighting that there is actually a lack of awareness about the pesky plant.

The research reveals only 19% of those surveyed were aware of Japanese Knotweed, also known as Fallopia japonica, and can correctly identify it. It has been described by the Environment Agency as “indisputably the UK’s most aggressive, destructive and invasive plant”.

Those involved were shown a selection of five photographs and given the task to try and identify which were of Japanese knotweed. 81% failed to do so, with 14% mistaking it for Bindweed, 8% selecting Houttuynia, 5% Russian Vine and 6% selecting a picture of common Ivy, found in most British gardens.

Failure to identify and treat the weed as soon as it appears could result in it spread rapidly. It can damage buildings, rendering them unsellable, until it has been treated accordingly. An insurance-backed guarantee would also be required, in order to satisfy mortgage lenders. If allowed to continue, it could potentially grow onto neighbouring property, leaving homeowners at risk of litigation from neighbours.

At least 37% of the survey respondents stated that they would attempt to tackle the knotweed themselves. 27% of these believe the best way to do so would be to dig the knotweed out of the ground, including the roots. However, because the plant can regrow, there is a big chance that part of the roots may be missed and therefore the process unsuccessful.

It can be worth seeking expert assistance with its removal, as you need to make sure it has been effectively taken care of. 75% of the survey respondents agreed that this would be the ideal solution to seek before the sale of the property.

Japanese knotweedThe worrying result from the survey was that 4% admitted they would attempt to cover it up or otherwise conceal it, with the intention that it would not be discovered by a potential buyer. However, if a thorough survey of the property is undertaken, it is likely that it would be found, and raised in the following report. It is also a requirement to disclose its presence on the Law Society’s TA6 form.

Although it is considered that not many people can recognise the plant by sight, 76% of Brits have actually heard of the plant, which is encouraging. This is compared to the result of 75% last year.

However, only 36% of those familiar with the plant were aware that they could be sued if they allow Japanese knotweed to spread from their property to that of their neighbour’s. As few as 18% knew that they could face prosecution under ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order) legislation if this does happen.

Nic Seal, Founder and MD of Environet, said: “Most people have heard of Japanese knotweed but the fact that only 19% of people in the UK can identify it from other common plants such as Bindweed and Ivy, is very concerning.

“If left untreated Japanese knotweed will grow rapidly, by up to 10cm a day during the summer months, pushing up through cracks in concrete, cavity walls and drains and causing damage to property. The longer it is left, the further its underground root system will spread and the more costly it will be to tackle. But it’s not just about protecting one’s property from damage and decreased value, it is also about protecting oneself from the risk of being sued if the knotweed is allowed to spread.

“The good news is that Japanese knotweed can be treated, either over two to three years using herbicide methods, or immediately by excavating it from the ground. With an insurance-backed guarantee secured for the work, most high street mortgage lenders will be happy to lend against an affected property, meaning it can still be bought and sold.”

Chartered Surveyor Philip Santo FRICS Director at Philip Santo & Co., added: “Professional treatment is the most effective way to manage and control Japanese knotweed and the key to selling is an approved Japanese Knotweed Management Plan from a reputable specialist. DIY treatments can make matters worse and the financial consequences of concealing or not declaring the presence of Japanese knotweed during a sale can easily run into tens of thousands of pounds, so it is just not worth taking the risk.”

If you wish to learn more about Japanese knotweed, check out Landlord News’ helpful guide section.

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