Japanese knotweed new shoots spring 2016

Japanese knotweed - it’s awake again and in a property near you

There are reports from various parts of Britain of knotweed shooting early this year.

It's claimed this is due to the mild wet winter. We’ve found many properties recently with the red buds emerging into the glorious sunshine ready to grow into the asparagus type shoots that grow into 2-3m tall canes by June with an abundance of heart shaped green leaves. It’s normal to see knotweed shoots in March in the south east of England so we don’t think they’ve emerged particularly early, but they are without doubt awake and ready to wreak havoc on the unfortunate owners of the properties they infest.

We’ve carried out some research and reckon approximately 1% of properties in the UK have knotweed. The figure could be much higher, as home owners do not like to disclose the fact that their property is blighted by Japanese knotweed. If we also include those properties that share a border with affected properties and are at risk from encroachment the figure could be more like 5%. According to Office for National Statistics there are approximately 27.8 million dwellings in the UK. That’s a whopping 1.39 million homes that might be affected by Japanese knotweed.

When one looks at the number of Google searches per month for knotweed a clear seasonal pattern emerges – when the knotweed is hibernating over winter it’s out of sight and out of mind but still there, alive, ready to be re-awakened. As soon as temperatures start to rise not only does the knotweed start to grow at a spectacular rate (apparently to everyone’s surprise), but so too does the number of Google searches for knotweed services. 

For most knotweed treatment companies this means winter famine and summer feast. Some survive the winter, others don’t. We’re a bit different because we work throughout the year, physically removing Japanese knotweed from both commercial and residential properties. We also recognise the limitations of herbicide treatment, which can simply cause temporary dormancy. The knotweed might look dead, but the underground rhizome system remains very much alive, ready to strike back when you least expect it.

Japanese knotweed is described by the Environment Agency as “indisputably the UK’s most aggressive and destructive invasive plant”. All major lenders recognise the damage it can cause to property and tend to refuse a mortgage on affected properties. The only way to obtain a mortgage secured against the property is to get the knotweed professionally treated by a reputable company able to provide an insurance backed guarantee. 

Spring is also the time that many home owners decide to put their house on the market. There is now a legal duty on them to disclose whether the property is affected by Japanese knotweed. Unfortunately there are some dishonest, desperate people around who don’t disclose it, leaving the unsuspecting buyer with the horrors of owning an infested property. Some knotweed victims decide to sue their seller, their surveyor or solicitor. 

But what you might not know is that there is now at long last an insurance product, provided by Countrywide Legal Indemnities, that can provide protection for unsuspecting home owners and their lenders, to cover the cost of treatment, and any third party claims, should knotweed be discovered after completion. If you are buying a property and are concerned about the risk of knotweed, it may be worth considering indemnity insurance. Any advice or insurance enquiries should be directed through your conveyancing solicitor.

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