Has Japanese knotweed from neighbouring land spread to your property?  If so, you could be entitled to compensation

Japanese knotweed is a fast-growing, invasive plant that spreads easily and requires careful management to control.  The root of the plant can cause significant property damage if it takes hold and can be difficult to eradicate.  If your home is affected by Japanese knotweed it can be harder to sell or remortgage and any plans you had to develop your property may have to be shelved if the presence of the plant means they are no longer financially viable.

Where Japanese knotweed exists on your property because it has been allowed to spread from neighbouring land it may be possible to claim compensation for the nuisance it causes.  Patrick Jenkins, Head of Litigation, explains more and discusses a recent court decision which could make claiming much easier.

When might a claim be possible?

You may be able to claim compensation if Japanese knotweed on your neighbour’s land has encroached onto your land and either caused physical damage to your home or garden or affected your ability to use or enjoy your property as you wish.

For your compensation claim to succeed you will need to show that your neighbour:

  • knew, or ought to have known, that Japanese knotweed was present on their land;
  • knew, or ought to have known, of the risk it posed and of the possibility that it might cause damage to your property or interfere with your rights of use or enjoyment; and (armed with that knowledge)
  • failed to do all that was reasonable in the circumstances to prevent or minimise the possibility of any damage or interference occurring.

Why might a claim be easier now?

In July 2018 the Court of Appeal issued a judgment in a case brought by two property owners whose homes had been blighted by Japanese knotweed growing on Network Rail’s land.  While no direct property damage had been caused, the property owners alleged that their use and enjoyment of their homes had been impaired and that they were accordingly entitled to compensation.

Despite Network Rail mounting a robust defence, the Court of Appeal found in favour of the property owners on the basis that where Japanese knotweed exists it not only carries with it the risk of future property damage but also imposes an immediate burden on affected property owners who will have to learn to cope with the problem, for example by amending their plans or making specific arrangements to accommodate the plant’s existence. Even doing something that would otherwise be relatively straightforward, like building an extension, will become more burdensome where the plant is present, particularly where it needs to be dug up to accommodate the works and arrangements put in hand for its effective removal and safe disposal.

The court also confirmed that there is no need for actual damage to have been caused before a claim can be made– encroachment of the plant onto your land amounts to a natural hazard which will invariably affect your ability to fully use and enjoy your property and therefore entitles you to seek compensation for the nuisance this causes.

Implications

If Japanese knotweed from neighbouring land has encroached onto your property then you should seek legal advice about your rights of redress.  As well as claiming compensation it may also be possible for you to compel your neighbour to take steps to control the future spread of the plant and to ensure the situation does not get any worse.

Advice should also be sought where you have recently bought a property and subsequently discovered the existence of Japanese knotweed as it may be possible to bring a compensation claim against the seller if they knew it is existed but failed to disclose it, or against your surveyor if they ought to have picked it up during their inspection of the property.

For help with this or any other type of civil dispute or claim, please contact Patrick Jenkins on 01730 268211 or email him at Patrick.Jenkins@macdonaldoates.co.uk

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only.  They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.   Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.