Legal Loopholes & Japanese Knotweed

Any homeowners who have not heard about Japanese Knotweed yet are likely to have been living under a rock.

This invasive plant from Japan has been the scourge of property sellers, land surveyors and construction workers for years now and it’s now making life incredibly difficult for homeowners who are looking to sell their properties. Although it’s caused numerous headaches for people all over the UK, the plant and its history is fascinating nonetheless and is a valuable lesson in what can happen when you take an organism away from its natural habitat.

Where did it come from?

Victorian horticulturists from Britain discovered Japanese knotweed in its native land and admired its resilience. The plant seemed to be able to grow in the most adverse conditions, including amongst the ashes of a recent volcanic eruption. These travelling gardeners were impressed with the structural capabilities of this bamboo-like plant and thought that it would be useful to Britain’s burgeoning Industrial Revolution. After bringing a handful of specimens back from Japan, cuttings of the plant were distributed throughout the country and the plant was soon put to work shoring up the sides of canal banks and railways lines across the UK. Nearly a century later and the plant has multiplied exponentially, becoming a problem for homeowners in the process.

How do you recognise it?

The plant is very similar in appearance to bamboo during the summer when it’s most visible, however early on in its life cycle it looks more like asparagus. Your best chance of correctly identifying Japanese knotweed is by taking a look at its leaves during the summer season.

These green, shield-shaped leaves are a distinctive shape and also feature alternating stems. During the winter, the large bamboo shoots die back, leaving light brown canes. The plant may look dead at this time of the year, but its root system is very much alive and kicking underground.

What can you do about it?

Finding a Japanese knotweed infestation on your land is never a good thing, but the worst thing that you can do is ignore it. The most important thing to ascertain is how bad your problem is and where it has come from. Japanese knotweed does not simply spring out of the ground for no reason and it’s likely that the plant has entered your land from a neighbouring property. If this is the case then you may able to claim for compensation from whoever has allowed the plant to grow onto your land. However, if the infestation is not someone else’s fault then you will have to foot the bill for removing the plant.

How does the law treat Japanese knotweed?

There are a handful of laws that set out how the government treats Japanese knotweed which has lead to the complex legal implications that now exist for homeowners unfortunate enough to discover the plant on their land. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is illegal for anyone to plant or cause to grow Japanese knotweed. This offence can include those who unwittingly transport soil which has fragments of the plant in, or those who negligently disperse it on another’s land.

There are also legal protections in place for landowners who want to protect their property from a neighbouring invasion. Police and local council authorities can issue Community Protection Notices to landowners negligently harbouring the plant. If this all sounds a bit complicated, then don’t worry as there are plenty of legal firms who are stepping up to offer aid to┬áthose seeking legal help with Japanese knotweed.

Can I sell my home with Japanese knotweed?

The question that many homeowners will want answering, unfortunately there is no simple answer to this. Unless you want to be hit with a compensation claim down the line, it’s in your best interest to be honest. Japanese knotweed can cut the value of a home down by up to 10%, so it’s important to get a good survey of any property before you make a purchase in order to ensure that you don’t walk right into an infestation.