Court case highlights need for vigilance regarding Japanese knotweed

Many agents may have read the recently published article in the Daily Mail regarding the case where a buyer successfully sued a seller for non-disclosure of Japanese knotweed. Upon moving into the property, the new owner found the invasive and troublesome plant growing behind a garden shed and sued the vendor, leaving him will a potential court bill in the region of £200,000.

Compliance Officer at The Guild of Property Professionals, Paul Offley, says that the case is a stark reminder to agents that they need to remain vigilant and carry out a through inspection of each property they list for the invasive species. He adds that Japanese knotweed is very difficult and expensive to get rid of and can cause costly damage to a building’s structure. While it may look small, the plant is capable of pushing its way through expansion joints, cavity walls and any weaknesses it finds within the structure of the home.

“Agents must always ensure that there is a question sent to the seller or the landlord asking if they are aware of the presence of Japanese knotweed in the property or within the area of the property. There should be the option the seller or landlord to answer either yes, no, or not known. It is imperative that the seller or landlord is made aware of the fact that if they tick ‘no’, when they know the property is affected, it is possible for this to be proven by a buyer and they could be sued for misrepresentation,” says Offley.

Adding another skill to the list a property professional requires, Offley adds that agents should also be vigilant when walking around the garden to identify any suspicious looking plants. “There are various images available via the internet, but leaves tend to be shovel shaped and turn yellow in November and have creamy white and small flowers from August to mid-September – so agents should brush up on their Alan Titchmarsh skills,” he quips.

According to Offley, provided an agent stresses the importance of this to their client, and all the other topics on a Property Information Questionnaire (PIQ) ensure information is provided and they remain vigilant, then they are doing all they can to provide accurate information for potential buyers.