Japanese Knotweed Property Blight – Landmark Court of Appeal Ruling

Japanese Knotweed is a plant that will take over your garden and buildings given the chance. It can affect your ability to sell your home and create havoc in your life. The Court of Appeal has made a decision that is good news if your neighbours have allowed the plant to come onto your property, you have the right to seek redress.

Network Rail Infrastructure Limited owned a stretch of land which had been harbouring Japanese Knotweed for over 50 years. The residents of the two bungalows whose back gardens are next to the land have been awarded compensation of approximately £15,000 because the ongoing knotweed problem had devalued their properties.

The company challenged the court ruling, who acknowledged the specific difficulties that the plant caused along with the fact that its disposal has to be undertaken by licensed specialist workers. The roots have to be completely removed and specific chemicals are applied to kill them, and then it has to be buried at least 5 metres deep underground having been wrapped first in a membrane to prevent the roots escaping and re-growing which could cause the blockage of drains or compromise buildings. Due to its pernicious characteristics any property with a history of the weed in its vicinity (within 7 metres) will be difficult if not impossible to sell, as building societies are unwilling to offer mortgages on these properties.

The Court did agree that to award damages on the basis of property value was not appropriate as the law of torte of nuisance was not about protecting investments and on that basis the original award was not correct.

However, the Court did dismiss the appeal on the basis that the presence of the Japanese Knotweed did pose a hazard and restricted the resident’s ability to enjoy the amenities of their property. Also, it was recognized that there was a financial burden on the landowners to remove the weed.