Japanese knotweed might not be scourge that home owners and estate agents dread

News at Ware & Co | 09/07/2018

Property Industry Eye article by Rosalind Renshaw

Japanese knotweed, the scourge of a number of home sellers and a well-known deal-breaker, may not be as harmful as previously thought.


A new report by the University of Leeds and engineering firm Aecom suggests it is relatively harmless with no evidence that it can grow through concrete, the Telegraph has reported.


Researchers studied 68 homes where knotweed was in situ. Dr Mark Fennell of Aecom said: “We found nothing to suggest that Japanese knotweed causes significant damage to buildings – even when it is growing in close proximity, and certainly no more damage than other species that are not subject to such strict lending policies.”


Some lenders will not lend on properties where there is knotweed within seven metres of the property. Others require there to be an approved specialist treatment plan, but the reality is that some purchasers are so frightened by the prospect of knotweed that the home is effectively blighted.


Estate agents routinely mention any presence of knotweed in property details, as omitting to do so could be a breach of  Consumer Protection Regulations.


The Telegraph says that the report should help change people’s opinions of knotweed, but that will take time. Lenders are unlikely to change their requirements overnight.


Confusingly, the research follows hot on the heels of a court case where two home owners took on Network Rail over the spread of Japanese knotweed to their homes – and won.


Stephen Williams and Robin Waistell, of Maesteg, Wales, were each awarded £15,000 last year, but Network Rail appealed.


However, last week the Court of Appeal ruled that the men could keep the compensation.


Japanese knotweed was described as a “pernicious weed” and a “natural hazard” that landowners must keep under control or pay the price.


Network Rail said the ruling could trigger an avalanche of similar claims.