Beware What Lies Beneath when buying a house


Conveyancing Solicitor warns of Japanese Knotweed ahead of the Stamp Duty Deadline

In the rush to meet the March 31 Stamp Duty deadline homebuyers are being warned not to rush ahead assuming the property they are buying is not affected by Japanese Knotweed.

When viewing properties during the winter months it is easy to focus on the internal features, cosy fires and carpets and so not pay as much attention to the garden. However this could prove a costly mistake, as with many garden plants and shrubs Japanese Knotweed dies back in the winter therefore making it much harder to spot.

It is the responsibility of the sellers to complete a Property Information Form which asks numerous questions about the property. Recent changes to the guidance accompanying this form has resulted in an increase in “unknown” to the question about Japanese Knotweed.

Research carried out by Environet also shows that some sellers would be willing to conceal Japanese Knotweed growing in their garden meaning that buyers would only discover it once gardens spring back to life in a few weeks’ time.

Victoria Marshall, Head of Conveyancing at Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers warns,

“Japanese Knotweed can seriously impact the value of a property so I would recommend that buyers carry out their own investigations particularly if the seller isn’t confidently offering assurances that Japanese Knotweed isn’t growing on the property.”

Buyers are particularly vulnerable at this time of year as the plant is dormant, however sellers are legally responsible for declaring if their property has Japanese Knotweed. Investigations can be carried out by arranging a professional Japanese Knotweed survey which will confirm its presence even if it is under the ground at the moment.

Victoria adds,

“Don’t be pressured to complete even with the stamp duty deadline looming. The cost of treatment and loss in value to your property, if it was discovered later, would in most cases be far greater than the stamp duty saving currently available.”

In what is regarded as a landmark ruling, the High Court has previously considered the knotweed to be a nuisance. The court ordered Network Rail to pay compensation for the devaluation of homes along its boundary, as well as to cover the cost of treating the knotweed when it was found to have spread from the railway embankment to gardens.

If sellers have deliberately concealed Japanese Knotweed they could find themselves being sued for misrepresentation, leading to legal fees and compensating the buyer for the inevitable decrease in the property’s value.

“It is always best to be totally honest about Japanese Knotweed from the beginning. If you ensure there is a treatment plan in place this will satisfy a buyer’s mortgage lender and in turn help prevent further the delay on selling a property,”

adds Victoria.

If the value of your home has been affected by Japanese knotweed or you discover the plant after you’ve moved house or find the plant growing from a neighbouring property you can take legal advice.

Contact Victoria Marshall on 0161 785 3500
If you need advice on Japanese Knotweed UK Law contact