Homeowners win thousands in Japanese knotweed dispute

·2-min read
japanese knotweed - Getty images
japanese knotweed - Getty images

Four homeowners have won tens of thousands of pounds in a claim for Japanese knotweed which had been growing on their properties for almost a decade. 

The residents, who live on the same road in Ammanford, South Wales, settled for a combined £42,500 in damages from Network Rail, which maintains Britain's railways. 

Japanese knotweed is toxic, fast-spreading and notoriously difficult and expensive to kill. It can destroy gardens and houses and, while it lays dormant underground in winter months, it grows in the summer in bamboo-like stems up to 3m (9.8ft). 

The presence of the plant on a property can take off 10pc from the price, according to invasive plant specialist Environet. It can also make a property unsellable, as many lenders are unwilling to offer mortgages on such properties. Owners are required to disclose any Japanese knotweed in the sale process. 

It can often be found close to railways because of its historic and widespread use to support tracks and embankments.

In the successful claim against Network Rail, the four properties backed onto the railway line and had infestations growing as high as 2.5m (8.2ft). 

Watch: Grow it Green: Japanese knotweed

Property owners are entitled to make a claim if the plant grows up to a metre onto a piece of land, according to High Street Solicitors, which represented the homeowners. It added that there needs to be visible encroachment onto the homeowner's land to lodge a claim, and the property itself needs to be with around 7m of the plant to have a strong case.

Joann Cameron, of the law firm, said: "If you have Japanese knotweed on your land this would cause an immediate diminution of property value and become apparent when and if you decide to sell.

"It is extremely important that the plant is eradicated and treated professionally, ensuring that you obtain a 10 year back guarantee when treatment has been carried out."

A Network Rail spokesperson said it understood Japanese knotweed was a "real concern" for its neighbours.

"We will always take action to manage the plant whenever it is identified on our land and will look to work constructively with our neighbours to stop it spreading," they added. 

The invasive pest is expected to have a bumper year and "come back even stronger" this summer after a frosty April delayed the growth of other plants. 

It can push up through cracks in concrete, drains and walls of houses. It affects 5pc of homes, either directly or through a neighbouring property, and has wiped an estimated £20bn from UK house prices, according to Environet. 

According to the company, Bolton, Bristol, St Helens and Cardiff are the top hotspots for Japanese knotweed in the UK. 

Watch: How much money do I need to buy a house?

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