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Japanese Knotweed is a very fast growing, invasive weed which looks similar to bamboo. It was initially introduced into the UK around the mid-nineteenth century as an ornamental plant, but has since become a significant issue throughout the country due to the damage it can cause.

 

Indeed, it has been introduced as an important question within the standard property information forms used when selling land because it is such a major problem which must be addressed before someone purchases land.

 

According to a Japanese Knotweed specialist, anywhere between 1% and 5% of UK properties could be affected.

 

Real Case Study: Ryb v Conways Chartered Surveyors

 

In this particular case, a partially-sighted purchaser, Mr Ryb, bought a property following receipt of a supposedly detailed survey prepared in 2014 which stated: ‘I have no hesitation in recommending it as a worthwhile investment’.

 

The next summer, Mr Ryb’s gardener discovered what he believed to be Japanese Knotweed and, after further investigations were carried out by specialists, it was confirmed that the property was affected by the plant and that it had likely been present for at least the last 3 years.

 

The specialist proceeded to excavate the Japanese Knotweed at a cost of over £10,000. However, despite this treatment, and no doubt to Mr Ryb’s dismay, the weed re-appeared in 2017.

 

Understandably, Mr Ryb sought to make a claim against the surveyors for failing to draw his attention to the presence of the Japanese Knotweed before he purchased the property. The judge was ultimately critical of the report which had been produced by the surveyors as this was meant to be a very detailed document which should have included a thorough inspection of the entire grounds, yet there were no photographs or plans to show the extent of the search which had been carried out.

 

When considering the loss suffered by Mr Ryb, the judge undertook an analysis of various factors such as the extent of the infestation, its size relative to the garden, the proximity to structures, etc. In so doing, the judge determined that the difference in value between what someone would have paid for the property if they had known, and had not known, about the Japanese Knotweed affecting it was £50,000 and that sum was awarded to Mr Ryb.

 

However, there is other case law which asserts a neighbour’s right to bring a claim if Japanese Knotweed invades their property from adjacent land. In such circumstances, it is entirely conceivable that Mr Ryb could have been found liable to pay his neighbour damages if the Japanese Knotweed had spread to their property, in which case those additional damages could have potentially formed part of his claim against the surveyors also.

 

If you have instructed a surveyor to prepare a pre-purchase survey or report on a property which has failed to identify Japanese Knotweed, or indeed any other defects affecting the property, then please contact Andrew Maidment who an Associate Solicitor and Head of the Professional Negligence Department on 01256 844888 or enquiries@lambbrooks.com