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Couple sue former homeowner over Japanese knotweed invasion

A couple who bought a property more than 15 years ago are suing the previous owner who sold it to them – amid concerns that a Japanese knotweed outbreak has reduced the value of the property by £50,000.

Japanese knotweed is a strong-growing perennial which can seriously damage buildings and construction sites if left unchecked.

While it is not illegal to have Japanese knotweed in your garden, you must declare the problem to potential buyers if you are planning to sell your home. Often, mortgage lenders will decline to lend against a house if it has a known knotweed problem.

In the case of Adam and Eleanor Smith, who bought the three-bedroom detached house near Falmouth for £200,000 in 2002, both were unaware of the destructive species growing near the property.

According to the report, the knotweed appeared to be spreading on land next to the property – which was retained by the seller during the sale – as well as on the driveway of the couple’s house.

Mr and Mrs Smith have now launched legal action against the former homeowner, 74-year-old Rosemary Line, claiming that the plant has reduced the value of their home by around 10 per cent.

Ms Line says she has done everything possible to stop the spread with herbicides and maintenance. The case is ongoing.

Earlier this year, a separate legal battle between a homeowner and Network Rail was fought over who would pay for the eradication of the invasive plant. The homeowner said an outbreak of Japanese Knotweed had halved the value of their property.

How to get rid of Japanese knotweed

Treating Japanese knotweed can be an expensive and lengthy process. The Gov.UK website and RHS website both have helpful advice on how to approach the problem.

However, treating the problem yourself can sometimes make the situation worse.

Graham Ellis, a director at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), said: “The most important thing is to get advice and to manage the situation properly.

“People do try to cover it up or cut it back but the problem with Japanese knotweed is that it will continue to reappear. If it’s cut back it will only come back all the more vigorously.

“If you have any concerns it’s best just to get a specialist in. It may cost you money in the short term but in the long term it could save the value of your house.”

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ELS Legal is an international law firm based in London with more than 50 partner offices across the world. As part of the Cathay Associates global legal network, we are the first choice law firm for a number of British businesses and overseas clients.

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