The Victorians were amazing in many ways and we have much to thank them for, but bringing Japanese Knotweed to the U.K. is not one of them!
Japanese Knotweed, also known as JKW, originated in Asia with its growth controlled by environmental factors. Here in the U.K. however the plant has no natural predators, and due to its rapid growth (up to 10cm per day), it outperforms other native plants to the point that if left untreated the emerging shoots can exploit weaknesses in brick, metal piling and even tarmac which can in turn cause damage to buildings.
JKW has a distinctive spade or heart shaped leaf in the summer months and a zig-zag shaped stem from which the leaves grow out of.
Removing Japanese knotweed is very difficult, cuttings as small as 2mm can lead to new growth. The plant is classified as controlled waste and as such requires removal by a licensed waste carrier as prescribed according to the Environmental Protection Act (Duty of Care) Regulations 1991.
For a property buyer, the presence of Japanese knotweed can cause issues getting a mortgage when purchasing a property. Each lender has their own guidance regarding JKW and what action needs to take place prior to lending on a property that has knotweed.
Common lender prerequisites are:
- To remove the JKW from the property and grounds. However:
- the company undertaking removal works must hold Property Care Association membership,
- a 5 year herbicide treatment plan with monitoring must be in place, and
- a 10 year insurance backed guarantee covering the work done must be issued.
We had an interesting case in March 2021 where we inspected a property and there was no knotweed. We had taken photographs of the grounds to show this. However, the client moved into the property in May 2021 and several large Knotweed bushes were growing out of the side of the building, at the base of the side elevation wall. Unfortunately, the client’s mortgage company pulled out, after the client had signed the contract! We were told that the client was going to lose their deposit and then incur the costs of removal of the plant. The costs of removal can be extensive.
If Japanese knotweed is found during your survey, or if we suspect it may be present / has been cut back or hidden by a vendor, we will recommend a specialist Japanese knotweed survey by a local Property Care Association JKW expert is undertaken prior to exchange of contracts so that you understand the potential cost implications of taking on such a property. However, due to such cases, as described above, we strongly recommend you obtain specialist advice, even if we do not see the plant at the time of the inspection. If you obtain a specialist’s report, that confirms no knotweed is present, this should qualify you for indemnity cover to insure you against any future losses.