Conveyancers urged to question Japanese Knotweed on new homes purchases

Conveyancers are being warned about the risk of future litigation if Japanese Knotweed is found at a new property that they have acted on.

Widely known for the aggressive impact it can have on property, the weed ranks top of the Environment Agency’s list of most invasive plant species.

In regard to property transactions, a specific question on the plant’s existence is included in the TA6 form. Where new-build properties are concerned, however, there is no requirement for this to be filled in by the seller. Given the potential consequences should it emerge that Japanese Knotweed is present, specialists in the plant’s removal, Environet, have issued a warning to conveyancing solicitors.

They state that in order to avoid the risk of future claims made against them, it is in the interests of both the solicitor and buyer to establish whether the land was ever treated for knotweed, either before or at the same time construction begun.

The call corresponds with the growth in reports of the plant that Environet have received on new build homes, where the developer has been reluctant to take responsibility.

Nic Seal, Managing Director and founder of Environet UK comments: “When we treat knotweed on a development site we issue an Insurance Backed Guarantee (IBG) underwritten by a syndicate at Lloyd’s to the developer. We can also provide a property specific IBG to the new home owner, so that they and their mortgagee are covered.  Unfortunately not all developers disclose that knotweed was present on the site, leaving the buyer exposed should knotweed return. It’s a little known fact the plant can lie dormant for up to 20 years.

Mark Montaldo from Cobleys Solicitors comments: “When our clients are buying from a developer we always recommend that the equivalent of the TA6 knotweed question is asked. If knotweed is declared then the appropriate insurance backed guarantees can be requested. If not, then Japanese knotweed Indemnity Insurance can be provided at a modest cost to mitigate any ongoing risk for the buyer. We currently have a case where the buyer requested that their conveyancing solicitor ask the developer about historical knotweed issues on the site. They failed to do so, so the buyer now owns a property covered in knotweed and is suing their solicitor for professional negligence.”

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