The Plant Growing In Your Garden Could Be Turning Buyers Away
If you see a green, bamboo-like stem or heart-shaped leaf growing on your property, there might be cause for concern.
This weed goes by the name Japanese Knotweed, and it is invading the structural integrity of residential and commercial properties across the U.K. The Knotweed begins to appear in the springtime, and continues to grow throughout the summer and at its peak, up to 10 centimetres a day. It is notorious for destroying walls, clogging underground drains and rapidly spreading throughout a property. An estimated 5% of U.K. properties are impacted, and it is more prevalent in some areas of the U.K. than others.
Japanese Knotweed could have significant implications for owners and developers. These weeds can not only make a property unattractive to potential buyers and renters, but can also turn away lenders.
“Japanese Knotweed is popping up all over, and it is becoming a problem in many residential properties and also some commercial properties,” Stewart Title Limited Commercial Business Development Manager Robert Kelly said. “These plants can infiltrate through weaknesses in concrete and can even, in some cases, break through powerful foundations. Dealing with it can be costly for owners and failure to deal with it can be a criminal offense."
While Japanese Knotweed can be an inconvenience, there are a number of options available for properties that are subject to, or likely to be subject to, damage. The seller or landlord needs to understand its responsibilities for removing and preventing the spread of Knotweed. Under U.K. consumer protection regulations, a residential estate agent is required to inform potential buyers of any “material fact” that might impact the decision to buy. This means notifying people looking to buy about potential risks of Japanese Knotweed.
For landlords and property owners, failure to provide residents and occupants with the necessary information about the presence of Knotweed could result in legal action. The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 allows authorities to impose remediation notices on an individual whose conduct has a detrimental effect on the quality of life for those in the locality and this includes not dealing with Knotweed which might escape onto neighbouring land. Local councils have the authority to issue notices for invasive plants and species such as Japanese Knotweed, which serves as a written warning for landlords and property owners. The notice defines a list of requirements to stop this behaviour. Breach of these requirements, without reasonable excuse, would result in an on-the-spot penalty of £100, which can be increased after a successful prosecution to £2,500 for an individual and up to £20K for a company, according to the Gov.UK Home Office website.
Several insurance companies have begun providing assistance to buyers and lenders to help them deal with remediation notices served in this respect. Stewart Title recently introduced a solution that would help lenders and buyers throughout this process. Stewart Title’s Japanese Knotweed Indemnity Policy provides £20K against remediation costs necessary to comply with a remediation notice for buyers for up to five years and similar cover for lenders for the whole term of the loan. The policy is available to owners who are not aware of the Knotweed on their property, or where Knotweed has previously been treated.
“There is already a lot to consider when buying and lending,” Kelly said. “The goal of this policy is to provide comfort to buyers and particularly lenders from this issue, so people can focus on everything else.”
This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and Stewart Title Insurance. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.