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Home Sellers Tied Up in Knots over Japanese Weed

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The spread of Japanese knotweed is posing a threat to house sales, potentially knocking thousands of pounds off the value of a home.

A property specialist at a leading West Midlands law firm says sellers must check whether the ornamental plant is present at their property because it must now be disclosed in legal documents and can affect a buyer’s ability to secure a mortgage.

Andrew Davies, Associate and Head of Residential Property at mfg Solicitors, is advising  property owners to be thorough in their checks because Japanese knotweed can not only grow at a rate of 10cm a day, but also cause extensive damage to buildings.

Some lenders, including the Skipton and Leeds building societies, have even refused mortgages if Japanese knotweed, which is illegal to plant, is found.

“Across England and Wales it is illegal to plant Japanese knotweed simply because of the devastating damage it can cause,” Mr Davies said.

“This isn’t a new problem as the plant has been around since the 19th century. But because of its legal status property owners have to disclose the presence Japanese knotweed and if it is found, it can potentially knock a lot of money off the a vendor’s asking price. It can be removed by specialists but registered contractors must be used so homeowners comply with the Knotweed Code of Practice, introduced by the Environment Agency over six years ago.

“There are certain ways of managing the plant and contaminated soil and all of this has to be proven to have been followed as part of any sale. There are some real horror stories of people who have found a £300,000 home reduced to just £50,000 because of Japanese knotweed. That’s not a situation we want homeowners, or indeed landlords, to find themselves in.”

The government estimates that it would cost the country £1.5 billion to remove the infestation of Japanese knotweed altogether. Experts say there is not a town or village anywhere in the country where it isn’t present.

Mr Davies added: “If Japanese knotweed is even within seven metres of a property, then that building can be classed as at risk and some homes have dropped in value by hundreds of thousands of pounds because lenders are concerned there could be all sorts of unseen, structural issues.

“It’s a problem we have had homeowners calling us for advice on but there are also many more in the region who are blissfully unaware. The rule of thumb is simple, take proper advice on spotting, managing and getting rid of what has become a stubborn, green menace.”