Three-quarters of home buyers scared off by Japanese knotweed

Three-quarters of potential buyers would be put off purchasing a property if they discovered there was Japanese knotweed present, research claims.

A poll has found that 78% of those aware of the infamous wild plant would be put off buying a property, with 69% concerned that it can’t always be removed and more than half worried about the time or cost of getting rid of it.

Only 3% of those aware of the weed said they would not be at all deterred from buying an affected property.

More strikingly, only 49% knew that a home owner is legally responsible for preventing it from spreading from their property, and 21% are aware of the implications of allowing it to be spread on to a neighbour’s garden.

Home owners can face prosecution for allowing it to grow and fines for failing to dispose of it properly, while neighbours can also make claims for costs.

Nic Seal, managing director of Environet which specialises in removing the weed, said: “Home owners are right to be concerned about the threat posed by Japanese knotweed.

“Attempting to deal with it by cutting it down repeatedly, burning it, burying it or using common weed killers simply won’t work as the plant can lie dormant beneath the ground, only to strike again when people least expect it.

“Yet for those wishing to buy or sell a property, it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker.”

Commenting on the findings, Mark Hayward, chief executive of NAEA Propertymark, said: “Japanese knotweed has been wreaking havoc in Britain for a number of years and can  bring down the value of a property.

“Knotweed is often identified during site surveys, and while it may look small and contained, do not under-estimate the scale of the potential problem.

“It is important to have the plant treated as soon as possible to avoid further growth and prevent the property sale from falling through.”

It is, however, possible for home owners to take out an insurance policy  for just £67 that indemnifies them against the risk of knotweed appearing, even if it is present in a nearby property.

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  1. Typhoon

    What this article fails to recognise is that probably 90% of homeowners wouldn’t recognise Japanese knotweed if it leapt up and bit them on the bum. Ergo they will not declare it at point of sale !!!

  2. revilo

    But presumably their selling agent would be trained in it’s recognition, and would, of course, declare it?

    1. Typhoon

      Did you see thast flight of tartan pigs go by?

  3. Will

    How many agents would be able to identify it?

    1. smile please

      Believe me once an agent has had the issue once they can spot it a mile off, no end of problems!

  4. Chris Wood

    Agents have a legal duty of care to sellers and buyers including to have a reasonable level of professional knowledge of known issues and opportunities that may benefit or detract from a sale or rental price. If an agent did not or could not identify knotweed and a client or buyer was not advised and suffered loss as a result, there is sufficient case law to allow a claim being brought.

    1. revilo

      Exactly.. !

    2. seenitall

      I dont beleive an agent would be responsible for not knowing or identifying JKW – I dont beleive the duty would extend that far by a court.
      What next are EA meant to survey a house and be experts for issues like woodworm/dry rot  – no its upto the buyer to make their own searches.
      What about:
      Acute oak decline  – do you know what to spot?
      Dutch elm disease- how do you spot this? 
      Honey fungus – should you know what this is to cover your duty of care or is this too far removed?

      1. Chris Wood

        Estate agents are not expected to be qualified to a level that surveyors are however, they are expected to be able to identify any potential issues that may affect a propertys’ value (positively or adversely) which would be reasonable for a layperson to expect a property professional to know.
        Hidden issues would not be expected to be picked up however, knotweed has a specific question on form TA6 so, it would be reasonable (and proper) for an agent to have knowledge of what it looks like, along with regularly encountered property issues such as heave, slip, settlement, dry rot, deathwatch beetle, woodworm, rising damp, penetrating damp, development potential etc.
        TPOmb item

  5. revilo

    I believe that Japanese Knotweed is specifically classed as a “material fact”, meaning there is a legal requirement on Estate Agents to make prospective buyers aware of the knotweed.

    Therefore they should all know how to identify it!  Estate Agents are supposed to be ‘experts’ in their field.

    Good luck in court seenitall… 😉

    1. Beam Splitter

      Material fact as in you must state it to potential buyers if you know it’s there, not that if it’s there and you didn’t know then you as an agent are liable. It’s the same way as disclosing a muder/suicide in the house, you have to state it if you know about it; the law doesn’t expect you to take a “””qualified””” occultist to every MA to look for “anything strange and evil” in the house, the same way it doesn’t expect you to be a botanical expert. 

      1. Chris Wood

        The fact is that agents have an obligation to make themselves aware of such issues as knotweed (see my answer above)

      2. revilo

        But I would expect my staff to be aware of it and to be able to recongise it, either at MA or listing…
        I don’t think I’d want to hide behind the ‘I didn’t know what it was’ angle!!

        1. Beam Splitter

          Yeah fair point Chris and revilo, it is in an agents best interest to at least have some awareness of it from a service perspective to the client primarily, and to cover themselves at the least.

          1. Chris Wood

            I’m sure there is case-law on this (an agent being sued) but I’ve been too busy today, sorry.

  6. Mike_Fitzgibbon_EnvironetUK

    An Estate Agent who sells a property does have a legal duty under Consumer Protection legislation to declare to a potential buyer any “material facts” they are aware of. According to the legislation guidance, this includes the presence of Japanese knotweed.

    If it can be proved that an Estate Agent knew about the knotweed but failed to disclose it, then a buyer may have legal redress.

    Mike Fitzgibbon, Environet


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