13 March 2018 | Comment

Japanese Knotweed: a growing concern for landowners

The County Court in Truro recently underlined the risk of allowing Japanese Knotweed to grow on your land without treatment in the case of Adam Smith and Eleanor Smith v Rosemary Line.

Mr and Mrs Smith purchased their house in Cornwall from Mrs Line in 2002. Mrs Line retained a strip of land running alongside the couple’s property. Over 15 years on, the value of Mr and Mrs Smith’s home was estimated to have increased to £500,000.

Japanese Knotweed was growing on both the parcel of land retained by Mrs Line and on the driveway of Mr and Mrs Smith’s house. It was argued that the weed had spread from Mrs Line’s land to the couple’s house and that she had failed to adequately treat the weed to prevent its spread. Mrs Line argued that she had taken steps to prevent the spread of the Japanese Knotweed, such as spraying it with herbicide, but evidence in the form of satellite imagery was used to demonstrate that the weed had continued to spread.

Mr and Mrs Smith claimed that the presence of the Japanese Knotweed had reduced the value of their property by 10% and successfully claimed this sum from Mrs Line. Mrs Line was ordered to employ a contractor for five years to eradicate the weed as well as being ordered to pay substantial costs to Mr and Mrs Smith.

This case follows the decision in Waistell and Another v Network Rail Infrastructure Limited (you can read our blog here) in which it was confirmed that failing to take reasonable steps to prevent the spread of Japanese Knotweed can amount to an actionable nuisance.

Japanese Knotweed is of concern for all landowners, but particularly those with large property portfolios who visit their land infrequently and are consequently less able to monitor the presence of the weed and its spread. Developers and other landowners with significant property portfolios should ensure regular inspections of their land are carried out so that Japanese Knotweed can be identified and treated as soon as possible.

If you would like to discuss how this case may affect you, please contact a member of the property dispute resolution team who will be able to give you advice on your specific circumstances.

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