Property Lawyers Welcome New RICS Japanese Knotweed Guidance

New Information To Provide Consistent Advice To Lenders And Surveyors


By Rob Dixon

A new initiative launched by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) designed to ensure that the risks of Japanese knotweed to residential properties are always examined and consistently considered has been welcomed by property lawyers at Irwin Mitchell.

According to the body, a lack of consistency in information regarding the plant – an invasive species known to grow through and cause damage to tarmac, paving, foundations and structures – has led to some confusion and ultimately banks refusing to lend on homes where it is present.

In order to tackle this issue, RICS guidance has been launched in conjunction with bodies including the Council of Mortgage Lenders to help both banks and surveyors assess risks and offer advice on treating it.

The move has been backed by Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Conveyancing team, who specialise in providing advice on all of the key issues surrounding buying and selling property.

Helen Hutchison, an expert in the Sheffield-based team, said: “The issue of Japanese knotweed is a very serious one, which can potentially have a serious effect on properties – both in terms of structural integrity and the ability to re-sell it and obtain mortgage finance.

“Fears over the impact of the plant mean that much confusion surrounds the actual consequences of its presence and what this means for everyone involved in the buying and selling process.

“This guidance will hopefully be a key step towards addressing the lack of understanding around the issue, with a view to ensuring that homeowners are always given consistent advice while looking to buy or a sell a property.”

Matthew Wayman, a specialist in property litigation at Irwin Mitchell, added: “If you are a seller and do discover it is an issue, you will need to disclose this as part of the conveyancing process.

“This is because it is something that may not be obvious to a buyer upon inspection of a property. Remember, a failure to do so can give rise to a claim against you in misrepresentation.

“To tackle these concerns about the plant, you could instruct an expert to visit your property and determine whether knotweed is present. You should also contact your neighbours to see if there are any signs of it on their own properties.

“In addition, if you can determine how the knotweed came to be on your property you may be able to take legal action. For example, if it emerged from a neighbour’s land and has had a detrimental effect on your property’s structural integrity.

“In such circumstances, and as the roots of Japanese Knotweed grow underground often without a landowner knowing, you would need to make your neighbour aware of the problem as soon as possible.”

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