What to do if your surveyor fails to spot Japanese knotweed

What happens if a surveyor misses Japanese knotweed growing on a property you wish to  buy?

Sellers have a legal obligation to declare if a property is affected by knotweed when they sell. However, some will claim they aren’t aware of it “to the best of their knowledge”, while others will attempt to conceal the weed by cutting it back, burning it, covering it with lawn or chippings, in the hope it isn’t discovered, particularly during late autumn and winter when the plant dies back. 

This means a surveyor is often a buyer’s last line of defence, but what happens if they miss Japanese knotweed growing on a property you wish to  buy?

Surveyors have a duty of care to both the homebuyer and the lender to identify Japanese knotweed during a survey, even if the seller has attempted to hide it. While they aren’t expected to dig up the ground, extra vigilance is required, along with a good awareness of the various methods of concealment to ensure they don’t find themselves being sued for negligence further down the line. 

If there is any doubt at all, the surveyor should recommend further investigation or suggest that the buyer takes out an inexpensive Japanese knotweed indemnity policy that will cover the cost of treatment, repairs, legal costs for third party claims and any proven diminution in their property when it is sold.

If a surveyor fails to identify knotweed during a survey, the buyer may have a claim against them if professional negligence can be proved. Environet can advise on this issue, particularly when it comes to revealing how long Japanese knotweed has been present and whether there are signs of concealment. We can also recommend solicitor firms who specialise in Japanese knotweed litigation.

A client of ours who bought a ground floor flat in Highgate, North London, is currently suing his surveyor who missed Japanese knotweed growing in several locations in the garden, despite walking past it several times during the survey. The case goes to court this summer and the client is hopeful of recovering the cost of treatment, over £100,000 in legal costs which have now accumulated, and diminution in his property which he believes to be in the region of £50,000. Read about this case study and advice from our MD Nic Seal in The Sunday Times Home section here.

If you would like help identifying Japanese knotweed or further advice on the legal responsibilities of property surveyors where knotweed is concerned, please get in touch with Environet today on 01932 868 700.

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