It’s time to review the 7 metre rule

Our founder and Managing Director Nic Seal featured in The Times again recently talking about the archaic ‘seven metre rule’ used by mortgage lenders to determine the risk of Japanese knotweed affecting a property.

Why is this a hot topic? Well, the seven metre rule states that if Japanese knotweed is found to be growing within seven metres of the boundary of a property, a mortgage will not be offered. Its purpose is to protect the lender, should knotweed impact the value of the property. But it’s a very blunt tool which doesn’t reflect the unique circumstances of each case – and very often, it leaves homeowners, through no fault of their own, unable to sell.

The article highlighted the case of Catherine Dafford, who has been unable to sell her flat in Nottingham for two years because the derelict plot next door is riddled with Japanese knotweed. She has contacted the landowners but had no response and can’t make a legal claim against them forcing them to deal with the knotweed, because it hasn’t yet encroached across the boundary. Catherine therefore finds herself in an impossible situation, stuck in her home and helpless to do anything about it.

Asked for his expert viewpoint, Nic said he believed the rule was overzealous and unfairly saddled thousands of homeowners with homes they can’t sell, stating: “I’d be in favour of the seven metre rule being adjusted to four or five metres and it shouldn’t apply where the knotweed is only on adjoining property. After all, if it does encroach, those affected can bring a civil claim in private nuisance to recover their losses. The rules as they stand affect people who have no control over what their neighbour does, which is inherently unfair.”

A Parliamentary Inquiry earlier this year also found that lenders were taking an ‘overly cautious’ approach and requested that further research is carried out into the risks.

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