What is the Law on Japanese Knotweed and Bamboo?
MARK QUINN >
SolicitorFri 24 July 2020
Many homeowners or potential buyers should be aware of the issues involved when Japanese knotweed is present on their property or, indeed, on neighbouring property. Increasingly, similar issues are also ‘cropping up’ with other species of invasive plant. In this article, we outline the problems associated with Japanese knotweed and bamboo as well as the legal options a property owner may have to consider.
Why is Japanese knotweed a problem?
Japanese knotweed, also known as Japanese bamboo, is an invasive non-native species of plant. It was introduced to the UK in the 1800’s as an ornamental plant. The main issues for a homeowner with Japanese knotweed on their property are:
- Physical damage to buildings and land.
- Difficulty in eradicating and disposing of the plants. This process can be expensive and time-consuming.
- Your property may be devalued.
- The marketability of your property may be lowered.
- Insuring your home can be more difficult.
- Potential buyers, tenants, or lenders can be deterred from proceeding where Japanese knotweed is present.
- It can also result in criminal and civil liabilities for owners or occupiers.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) provides a comprehensive information paper on Japanese Knotweed and residential property. It describes the damage it can do to property as well as the potential impact on property values and insurance.
Japanese knotweed UK law
Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Japanese knotweed growth can lead to the criminal prosecution of an owner or occupier if they do not handle the plant in accordance with the law. However, we will look at the civil liability associated with this plant below.
If an owner or occupier allows knotweed to spread onto neighbouring land, their neighbour may be able to issue proceedings against them for common law private nuisance. The owner of the affected land can seek compensation for the following:
- The loss of enjoyment or amenity (which may amount to the devaluation of their property)
- Property damage
- The costs of removal (which can often take up to two years and may need to be backed by a guarantee)
- An injunction against re-infestation and/or requiring action to control the knotweed
One of the leading Japanese Knotweed cases is Network Rail v Williams (Court of Appeal). Interesting to note from this case is that rhizome contamination alone may be enough for the claimant to prove damage to their land. Also, nuisance can be caused by inaction or omission as well as positive activity. So, an occupier can be liable for the continuing nuisance created by another person if they fail to eradicate it when they had ample time to do so.
Bamboo and Japanese knotweed
Bamboo is not classed as an invasive species in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and there are currently no restrictions on planting it. However, encroachment cases are becoming more common; homeowners are increasingly taking legal action against neighbours who have allowed bamboo to spread. In fact, Professor Max Wade (from the Property Care Association) has said that bamboo could be tomorrow’s Japanese knotweed.
Should you require further advice on Japanese knotweed UK law, or for assistance with encroachment of bamboo or Japanese knotweed onto your property, please get in touch.
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