Do you have a Japanese Knotweed problem with one of your properties?
Are you looking to invest in a property that has a Japanese knotweed problem?
In this post I will explain what Japanese knotweed is, the damage that it can do, how it can affect the value of a property and what you can do to get rid of it. It is important that you understand these things as a property investor.
There are plenty of myths about Japanese knotweed and lots of misleading information online. So I want to present you with the facts about this invasive plant. The first thing that I want to impress upon you is that you should not underestimate the problems that Japanese knotweed can cause with property.
There are some people that will be totally unaware of what Japanese knotweed is and the problems that it can bring. If you want to sell a property that has Japanese knotweed you have to disclose this when you put your property on the market. But not everyone does this so if you are buying then you need to know what it looks like.
You do not want to purchase a property that has a Japanese knotweed issue. It can cost a lot of money to get rid of this invasive weed so if the current owner is unwilling to do anything about it then you either need to drop your price to compensate for this or simply walk away.
So what exactly is Japanese Knotweed?
Japanese knotweed is not native to the United Kingdom. It comes from the Far East, predominantly in Japan which explains the name. Because it isn’t a native plant it’s considered an invasive species.
This plant can grow really big. It forms in clumps and can grow as high as 3 metres tall. The leaves of Japanese knotweed are in the shape of a shield and they measure 10 to 15 centimetres long on average.
You may possibly mistake Japanese knotweed for bamboo as it has a hollow stem. The stem is a light green colour and there are speckles of a pinky red colour. In the UK you will not find any Japanese knotweed seeds – there are only female plants in the country.
During the months of August to October Japanese knotweed will flower creating very small flowers, creamy white in colour, always in a cluster. The roots of Japanese knotweed are extensive and thick and are yellow/orange inside.
These roots are rhizomes that spread very easily. In the winter time Japanese knotweed will die back and leave brown canes but it is a perennial plant and the rhizomes help it to grow again the rest of the year.
The damage Japanese Knotweed can cause to property
A lot of people underestimate the damage that Japanese knotweed can cause to property. You need to know that the roots of Japanese knotweed can extend down to 3 metres and they can spread in any direction as far as 7 metres.
There have been cases in the past where Japanese knotweed has actually broken through brickwork and concrete, so it is something that you must take seriously. The plant can exploit any vulnerability in the structure of a property and spread its roots fast weakening the structure.
At the very least it is likely to cause a problem with drains. Blocked drains cause by the roots of Japanese knotweed is a common problem. The roots of the plant are very strong and they can take hold very quickly. In a worst case scenario, Japanese knotweed can actually damage the foundations of a property.
Most properties have cracks in walls, concrete, paths and driveways, mortar joints and so on. These are all things that Japanese knotweed can exploit. Like all plants it will aim for light and moisture, and if these cracks in a property are the easiest way to achieve this then that is exactly what will happen.
Japanese knotweed can damage pipes running under a property. It can also damage underground cabling and more. There is also a risk of damp with this plant. As the rhizomes spread fast along walls they will bring moisture with them which can quickly develop into a damp problem.
Is it Illegal to have Japanese Knotweed?
If you have Japanese knotweed on your land then you are not breaking the law. What is illegal is to deliberately introduce it using rhizomes (or any other method) or to let it spread into the wild as this contravenes the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act.
Japanese knotweed is more likely to cause relationship problems with neighbours if it spreads on to their land (which it is very likely to do). If this happens you could end up with a private nuisance claim which could be very expensive for you. This is why it is best to tackle Japanese knotweed problems as soon as you identify them.
Reducing the value of property and other problems
If a property has a Japanese knotweed problem then it will definitely have a negative impact on the value. Although you can still sell a property that has Japanese knotweed on the land, expect to have to reduce the selling price in order to make a sale. When you are buying a property you need to identify the extent of the problem and then adjust your bid down.
Some buyers will not be interested in a property that has a Japanese knotweed problem at all. They know that it will take a lot of work and expense to eradicate the problem so they would sooner pay a higher price for an unaffected property.
If you want to make an investment in a property with Japanese knotweed at a lower price then you may experience difficulties with obtaining a mortgage. Many lenders will just turn you down because of the problem but a few will be interested.
When you find a potential lender it is very likely that they will want you to arrange for a qualified surveyor to identify any problem areas and the likely risks of future damage to the property. If a surveyor reports extensive damage and the possibility of more then you may find that a lender will refuse your application for a loan.
Lenders that are willing to provide mortgages for properties with Japanese knotweed are going to have specific rules. One of the most common rules is to identify how likely the plant is to spread to neighbouring properties. They will consider the problem to be low risk if the roots of the Japanese knotweed are more than 7 metres away from boundaries.
The lenders are also likely to be interested in how close the Japanese knotweed is to your property. If it is very close then they will consider this a high risk scenario. To obtain a mortgage in this situation the lender is likely to request that you eliminate the problem first.
Getting rid of Japanese Knotweed
As tempting as it may be to try and get rid of your Japanese knotweed problem yourself it is not something that I advise. If you go about this the wrong way then you can make the problem worse as the plant will spread further.
If you do make the decision to get rid of the Japanese knotweed yourself then you cannot just take the weed down to the local council amenity. The disposal requires handling by specialist contractors to ensure that there is no risk of it spreading elsewhere.
You will need to treat the soil where the Japanese knotweed came from as well using special chemicals to ensure that it will not return. There is a lot more involved in the eradication of Japanese knotweed than most people think.
My best advice to you is to contact a specialist company that has a license to remove Japanese knotweed. They will visit the property first to fully confirm that you have Japanese knotweed. Then they will arrange a process for removal that ensures there is no chance of the weed returning.
Licensed Japanese knotweed removal companies will provide you with an insurance backed guarantee that you can show to lenders and also to potential buyers if you are selling. If you believe that a property you own, or one that you are considering investing in has Japanese knotweed then you need to take action immediately to resolve the problem.
Don’t leave it too late – this invasive weed will take over your property!