Japanese Knotweed, The Home Owner's Nightmare

What is Japanese Knotweed and why is it a problem?

Japanese Knotweed in Wakefield

Most people who have heard of Japanese Knotweed are likely to get palpitations if they think their property might have it on or near it. The innocuous-looking plant with the heart-shaped leaves and cream flowers has a huge fear factor attached to it.

Why so?

Basically this invasive perennial can spread like wildfire when left to its own devices (it can grow several cm in a day!) and has been known to cause serious structural damage to property, breaking through concrete and foundations.

I've got Japanese Knotweed at my house - what should I do?

Unless it's really entrenched getting rid of Japanese Knotweed is manageable, if potentially costly. The key is to act quickly before it spreads and becomes strong, and you are legally obligated not to knowlingly let it spread off your land.

Be careful about how you attempt to get rid of Japanese Knotweed though as there are prescribed methods to follow for treatment and disposal - for instance, it does not spread from seeds but when small pieces of the plant are broken off, including the parts underground (rhizomes, which can grow down 4 meters in depth and span 7 meters wide from a stem), so probably the worst thing you can do is try to dig up or cut back the plant yourself. You will probably need to use a herbicide which penetrates the whole plant, like Glyphosate, but it's best to consult a professional who holds the necessary certificates to do this.

Proper eradication takes place over several stages, across 12 months or more, rather than a one off removal process, and due to this can be quite expensive.

How will presence of Japanese Knotweed affect selling my house / the value of my home?

Without wishing to scaremonger, we should mention that lenders in general are not keen on offering a mortgage on a property that has Japanese Knotweed on or even close by it.

What can you do?

Best thing to do if Japanese Knotweed is found after doing a survey is to seek the lender's criteria for lending on it after eradication. What lenders want will depend on what is prescribed as good advice plus (in our experience) whatever they fancy based on which way the wind is blowing that day.

We dealt with a case where the lender asked for a knotweed report from our client which was relatively inexpensive. Once the report was submitted they were advised to start the treatment by "stem injection". After the client had had the treatment and asked about getting the mortgage offer the lender completely changed their criteria about how the knotweed would have had to have been treated!

After weeks of complaints the bank backed down and reluctantly offered a mortgage (albeit with a quite heavily reduced valuation). This just shows how difficult it can prove if knotweed is found.

Our advice:

Know what you're looking for. Once spotted get it treated by professionals. Chances are if you've caught it early the damage caused to your property will be nonexistent. The Environment Agency is a good first port of call for any questions. Their helpline is 03706 506 506

Published on 06 October 2014

Source Dominic Woodward

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