I have been shocked twice this week and both of these incidents involved Japanese knotweed. The first was a couple who came to one of presentations who ended up in tears and the second related to a couple whose knotweed problem ended up with someone being killed!
I really thought that I had seen everything with JK….but apparently not.
What is sad about both of these shocking incidents is that they were all born from the misconception that a Japanese knotweed infestation is the end of the world. I admit it’s not a laughing matter but it’s also not something worth killing somebody over.
The first of these incidents involved a couple that came along to my presentation – they had been duped when they bought their house and were now struggling to sell their property because of a knotweed infestation. The seller didn’t confess to having knotweed in their sale documents and the surveyor didn’t pick up on the tell-tale signs of Japanese knotweed in it’s over winter state. So the sale went through and it was only in the following Spring that the new owner noticed bright red shoots rapidly growing in the bottom of the garden and began to wonder what this plant could be. A bit of Google research and a nifty look over the fence led to the conclusion that they had a major problem in their garden and an even bigger issue on the adjoining river bank. Japanese knotweed was everywhere and in such an advanced state of growth that even the thought of trying to start an eradication strategy was mind boggling.
The second incident was in the paper this morning with an article describing a husbands defence in the murder of his wife being that the ….’stress of a nearby Japanese knotweed infestation’ which had driven him to the terrible act in the heat of the distress caused. This – from what we are told- related to Japanese knotweed on adjacent land – with the land owner refusing to take action to eradicate the plant, again resulting in an un-saleable property.
Whilst I don’t profess to having all the answers to Japanese knotweed legal problems – both of these incidents are covered under legal precedent. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is illegal to allow Japanese knotweed to grow from your land into an adjacent property – this is covered under ‘common law’ as a ‘nuisance’ and can result in fines and compensation.
With the first incident where the house sale went through and the Japanese knotweed wasn’t spotted by the surveyor – I’m sorry – but his Professional Indemnity Insurance would be my first port of call. It is fairly straightforward to tell how long Japanese knotweed has been in a certain location. Growth patterns and size of growth will give a clear indication of whether the plant has been there for one year two years or ten years. So any signs of growth (and there are always signs) the surveyor should have picked up on them – whatever the time of year. I would be asking for compensation from the surveyor and would happily get a solicitor to pursue them for the costs of employing a reputable contractor to resolve the issues – and to provide a twenty five year insurance backed warranty for the new purchaser of the property.
With the second incident we are given to understand that the infestation was on local authority land – and again they are in breach of the law for allowing the infestation to spread onto adjacent properties. This is pretty straightforward stuff – first a letter advising them of the problem and giving them a timescale to resolve the issues. Second a letter from your solicitor telling them that you want the issue resolving and compensation for your stress and the upset caused.
So in both of these cases it isn’t worth tears and it certainly isn’t worth killing somebody over. Japanese knotweed isn’t pleasant but it is treatable and it shouldn’t be seen as the end of the world.