Re: Winter 2013/14 - Page 79

JAPANESE NOTWEED K Problems for Homeowners I have always though that being a conveyancing solicitor often involves other disciplines: agony aunt, social worker, mind reader and psychiatrist spring immediately to mind. However, it seems that I now need to brush up on my horticultural knowledge as the problem of our not so welcome Japanese visitor continues to cause problems for clients buying and selling properties. What is it? Fallopia Japonica (technical term, I`ve done my homework here!) is a destructive bamboo like plant that has increasingly spread across the country in recent years. It is rapid growing (up to a 10cm a day) and spreads very quickly. The plant has very deep roots that can penetrate concrete. It can cause considerable damage to buildings as it can damage foundations and drains. Why should I be worried? Aside from the obvious problems outlined above, there are other practical and legal issues which should concern homeowners. Firstly the existence of Japanese knotweed can seriously affect your ability to sell your property. Mortgage lenders have become increasingly aware of the problems that Japanese knotweed and many mortgage lenders will not lend on properties where it is present. Other lenders require remedial works to have been carried out. Some lenders go further and also require the remedial works to be guaranteed. Even if knotweed is close to or in the vicinity of your property it may be enough to cause problems when the property is sold. Secondly , the cost of removing Japanese knotweed is significant (up to £20,000) and will usually involve employing a specialist contractor particularly as the knotweed must be carefully disposed of once removed. Thirdly, you may risk a legal claim by your neighbours. If you fail to take action then it may constitute a private nuisance for which you could be sued. What should I do? An obvious first step is to know your enemy. It is worth spending time to have a look on the internet to identify what Japanese knotweed looks like. Its leaves are lush green in colour and shovel shaped. The stem resembles bamboo and it produces white flowers around September/ October. If you do find Japanese knotweed present at your property it is important to act promptly. Unless you are confident that you know what you are doing then you will need to source a specialist contractor who will advise on the correct procedure for removal. This will hopefully avoid any recurrence and it is particularly helpful if the work is guaranteed. Is there any good news? Oh yes……I am reliably informed that Japanese knotweed is edible and apparently tastes like rhubarb. Having said that, bearing in mind this stuff can force its way through concrete, I think that I am inclined to give it a miss. By Nick Walsh 77