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A Thorny Problem For Buyers and Sellers
- AuthorEmma Gilroy
Emma Gilroy, Director and Head of Residential Property at JCP Solicitors, looks at the issue of Japanese Knotweed.
When buying a property, buyers usually make their choice because of the location. However, a key consideration when you are viewing property and imagining where your furniture will fit, is to look very carefully at the garden – and over the garden wall too.
Even if your only interest in horticulture involves overwatering the potted basil on your kitchen windowsill, it is vital you are aware of Japanese knotweed.
This unrelenting plant is causing sleepless nights for many home-owners, since it can undermine foundations and sewer systems, poke its head up through concrete floors and asphalt and withstand numerous attempts to stem its march across land, housing estates, gardens, embankments and railway sidings.
If you are a buyer, it makes sense to familiarise yourself with the appearance of knotweed since some mortgage lenders won’t lend money at all if a property, a neighbouring property, or neighbouring land is affected. Similarly, many insurers refuse to insure under these circumstances too.
The positive news is that a vendor is obliged to disclose the presence of the plant if they are aware of it, during pre-contract enquiries made by your solicitor on the TA6 Law Society form.
I would always recommend that a prospective buyer commissions a RICS Homebuyer’s Survey when purchasing, as it covers many important issues, including the presence of Japanese Knotweed. Surveyors are trained to identify the plant, and a buyer will therefore have further information about whether their property is affected. They will also have added protection in the unlikely event the presence of Japanese Knotweed is missed on inspection.
If you have set your heart on a property which is close to a Japanese knotweed cluster, or if it is found in the garden, by all means talk to your lender.
Some are willing to take a case-by-case view and they will lend if the Japanese knotweed is being eradicated by a reputable firm and if insurance-backed guarantees are then provided. Be aware that professional eradication can cost around £3,000.
It is possible to take out indemnity insurance against this epidemic – this covers the owner and any mortgage company involved and provides a £20,000 level of indemnity so, if Japanese Knotweed appears within 5 years, surveys, remediation costs, any repair works, legal fees and loss of market value are covered.
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