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Gumersalls News

Japanese Knotweed Cases On The Rise

by | Nov 5, 2021 | News | 0 comments

A law firm that specialises in Japanese knotweed-related claims has revealed that there has been a 25 per cent year-on-year increase in misinterpretation cases, which typically arise when a seller has failed to declare the presence of the invasive plant species on the property, and it has been discovered by the buyer after completion.

Today’s Conveyancer reports that Japanese knotweed removal experts Environet UK claim that the increase in cases is partly due to the rush to complete transactions in the run-up to the end of the stamp duty holiday, and failing to mention the knotweed in order to speed up the process.

It is required by law for sellers to state whether the property they are selling is affected by the invasive plant species in the Law Society’s TA6 form, which is completed as part of the conveyancing process.

In order to enter ‘no’ on the form, sellers need to ensure there is no rhizome present within three metres of the property and under the ground. Rhizomes are underground plant stems that can produce shoots and root systems of a new plant.

Sellers who declare their property is Japanese knotweed-free without having conducted the proper checks can then find themselves in a costly misinterpretation claim when the species is later found on the property.

Buyers are then able to claim for the cost of the removal of the plant, which can cost thousands of pounds, as well as for the diminution of the value of the property, as Japanese knotweed can knock 10 per cent off the value of a property.

Property transactions hit a staggering 213,120 in June 2021 – a year on year increase of 216 per cent compared to June 2020, according to data from HMRC, and with this increase comes a rise in misinterpretation claims.

However, with frenetic market activity and the pandemic causing delays in the property selling process, including conveyancing, pressure to complete before the end of the stamp duty holiday may have encouraged some buyers to skip certain checks for Japanese knotweed to speed up the process.

The founder and managing director of Environet UK, Nic Seal, said he wasn’t surprised by the rise in misinterpretation claims, following conversations with ‘panicked buyers and sellers’ in the closing weeks of the stamp duty holiday.

He added that checks for Japanese knotweed are an essential part of the conveyancing process, and during the rush to complete, aggravated by delays in the conveyancing process, many buyers were tempted to cross their fingers and hope there was no knotweed, rather than commission an additional survey.

He said that it can be a very worrying time for buyers who now find themselves in possession of a property that they may not have bought at all, or bought for less, had they known the issues.

“But by treating the infestation professionally and securing an insurance-backed guarantee for the work, it is possible in most cases to restore the value of the property to close to its original value – as the so-called ‘knotweed stigma’ can still have some impact,” Seal said.

 

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