As an Estate Agent, you know that you do not get paid if a house sale does not go through! You also want to ensure that your client has the smoothest journey possible to purchasing or selling a property with minimal delays. I have seen many sales on the brink of failure due to Japanese Knotweed.
Japanese Knotweed is classed explicitly as a “material fact”, meaning there is a legal requirement on Estate Agents to make prospective buyers aware of the Knotweed. Attempts to conceal Knotweed by desperate sellers are all too common.
The seller of a property is obligated to ensure that any information they have provided to the buyer is kept up to date, right up to the day of the exchange. This means that if the seller initially reports, truthfully, that there is no Knotweed present on the property and then later discovers an infestation, they are obligated by law to inform the prospective seller. There is a stipulation in the standard TA6 Property Information Form that requires the seller to inform their solicitor in the event of a change in the answer that they have initially provided. Failure to communicate this change could lead to a potential claim against the seller for misrepresentation.
You will not be prosecuted for having Japanese Knotweed growing on your land. However, it is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 act to ‘plant’ or ‘otherwise cause to grow in the wild’ a number of non-native plant species, including Japanese Knotweed.
Japanese Knotweed can devalue a property between 5-15%. There have been cases where homes have been almost completely devalued as a result of severe infestations; however, these are rare occurrences. The extent to which a property is devalued will depend on the severity of the infestation and the proximity of the Knotweed to the home. This devaluation will usually be equivalent to the cost of removing the plant and restoring the property to its original value.
Ideally, you want to catch the plant in its early development in the spring or the beginning of summer. Waiting too long, particularly until the Japanese knotweed flowers appear in late summer, can mean that you are more prone to property damage.
It usually takes at least three to four seasons to eradicate Japanese Knotweed using weedkiller. Professional contractors, however, will have access to more powerful weedkiller that may reduce this period by half.
The important first step is not to try treating it yourself because disturbing the Knotweed can make it spread even further. To remove the weed, you should contact a licensed professional who specialises in such work. They will assess your land and confirm whether the weed is present before giving you a plan for treating and removing it. The process for getting rid of Japanese Knotweed can be lengthy and involves the use of chemicals to stop its return.
DO NOT cut, mow or strim growing Japanese Knotweed. This will not kill it, the plant will re-grow from the root, and there is a high risk of making the problem worse – a small fragment of root or stem with a node can grow into a new plant. Digging requires the removal of all the rhizome and all the surrounding soil, which is classed as contaminated. This is then classed as controlled waste, and a licence is required for disposal as such digging is only carried out at a commercial scale.
The roots of Japanese Knotweed are a huge problem and can grow as deep as 3 metres, making it difficult to get rid of. In addition to this, the roots can spread up to 7 metres horizontally. Above the ground, the plant is equally fast-growing and can quickly reach heights of three or four metres.
There are several methods of dealing with Knotweed, the least expensive being herbicide treatment over two to three years. Increasingly, homeowners opt to have the Knotweed physically dug out of the ground, with all viable rhizome roots sifted and removed from the infected soil.
There is a solution in the form of knotweed sniffer dogs. A dog detection survey, recently launched by Environet UK, helps solve this problem and brings peace of mind to homebuyers that a property is free from Knotweed.
Environet’s team of sniffer dogs will scour the garden and indicate by freezing if Knotweed is present, even if it’s hidden beneath the ground. If a property is affected by Knotweed, the buyer should insist that a treatment plan is put in place immediately and a guarantee for the work secured for the Sale to proceed.
Don’t let Japanese Knotweed Lose you the Sale.
Japanese Knotweed does not have to be a deal-breaker. Familiarise yourself with what this highly invasive plant looks like. Advise any client attempting to sell a knotweed affected property to take proactive steps to get treatment underway before the buyer is taken by surprise.
Here is a gallery of Japanese knotweed pictures to help you identify Knotweed.