Japanese knotweed growing through garden path

Homeowner wins legal case against surveyor for failing to spot Japanese knotweed

We were delighted to be of assistance to London homeowner Paul Ryb who has won his legal case against a Chartered Surveyor for failing to identify Japanese knotweed growing in the garden of his property during a residential survey. 

The case, which was reported in the Sunday Times, strongly reinforces the legal precedent that surveyors must fulfil their duty of care by identifying the invasive plant and if they fail to do so, they could be sued for negligence.

Mr Ryb commissioned a Chartered Surveyor to carry out a Level Three RICS Building Survey of the ground floor flat in Highgate, North London, the most comprehensive survey available. The property was found to be in excellent condition with very few defects and it was recommended that the sale proceed.

The following year, a gardener discovered what he believed to be Japanese knotweed growing in the garden of the property. We were instructed to carry out a Japanese knotweed survey, during which we found knotweed to be visibly present in three locations. The maturity of the plant proved that it had been there for more than three years and would have been in leaf and flowering, therefore easily identifiable, in early September when the survey took place.

Mr Ryb instructed Environet to dig out the Japanese knotweed, then sued the surveyor for costs and damages including ‘making good’ of the gardens and grounds. We’re pleased to say that last month, the Judge found in favour of the claimant and awarded him damages and costs, also taking into account diminution of property value.

Paul said: “I bought the property in good faith following a building survey which gave it a clean bill of health. I would not have gone ahead with the purchase, or at the very least would have renegotiated the price, if I had known it was affected by Japanese knotweed. I am relieved to have finally won my case and I hope it gives hope to other homeowners who find themselves in a similar situation, that they may have a legal case for compensation.”

Our MD Nic Seal said: “Homeowners who instruct building survey when they buy a property, should be able to trust a professional surveyor to identify Japanese knotweed. This case sends out a strong message that they will be protected by the law if their surveyor fails in his or her duty of care.

Anyone buying a property can now check whether the local area is affected by Japanese knotweed using Environet’s new online heatmap, Exposed: The Japanese Knotweed Heatmap. Where a high number of knotweed sightings appear, homebuyers may wish to instruct Environet to carry out a survey to check the likelihood of the property they intend to buy being affected.

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