Claire Turnbull from our West Cumbria office writes about the dangers of Japanese Knotweed when buying or selling your home.
A recent Court of Appeal ruling in Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd v Williams and another  EWCA Civ 1514 has many important implications when buying or selling a property.
The case involved a claim for private nuisance by two owners of houses next to a railway line. Japanese Knotweed had been prevalent on the adjoining land for many years and that land was owned by Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd. The home owners said knotweed had spread to the foundations of their houses and thus devalued their property.
The case indicates that neighbouring property owners can in certain circumstances be successful in bringing a court action for nuisance against land/property owners who have Japanese Knotweed present on their land. Japanese Knotweed is an invasive plant which can cause physical damage to buildings and land because of its roots and rapid ability to spread. It requires an extensive treatment programme over a number of years and can diminish the value and development potential of property because of its existence.
The decision in this case is important as there was no clear physical damage to the neighbouring properties abutting the land with knotweed. Not only does this case show the importance of buyers’ having surveys carried out prior to committing to their purchase, which is always advised by lawyers, it also reiterates the importance of sellers providing truthful and accurate disclosure. As part of the buying and selling process sellers are obliged to answer questions set out in a Law Society form known as TA6 which contains a particular query relating to Japanese Knotweed. If an untruthful answer is given this could lead to expensive litigation through the courts and damages being payable due to the loss in value of the property or the buyer may cancel the contract and claim back their deposit.