Japanese Knotweed – from a lenders perspective

Within Britain today, Japanese Knotweed is considered as one of the most invasive plants known. It certainly causes concern for lenders because of the rapid way it grows and the damage that it can cause to property. It found its way from its origin in Japan to Britain in the early 19th century, being used ornamentally and for cattle feed. The Video above is BBC footage from a documentary on the subject.

Japanese Knotweed actually grows at around 10cm per day in any soil type and it can form dense clumps of foliage which can reach around 3m in height. It thrives on disturbance to the ground and spreads both naturally and by humans. The smallest of fragments can create new Japanese Knotweed plants but it isn’t the 3m high foliage that is causing problems!

The problems come underground where they create root networks extending 3m in depth and around 7m in all directions. Imagine just for a second this in your back garden extending to 7m. Would this disrupt your house foundations?

In actual fact Japanese Knotweed causes a massive threat to structures; it damages their foundations, drains and other underground services leaving a path of destruction behind.

How to identify Japanese Knotweed?

The plant itself can be easily identified by its bamboo style stems and large oval style leaves. In Spring time the Japanese Knotweed will start to send new shoots from underground to the surface; these are a red/ purple colour.

In the Winter time the plant tends to die back and the stems are uncovered.

Why is Japanese Knotweed such a problem?

Within the UK there is no way of controlling the Japanese Knotweed plant naturally. This contrasts to Japan where it originated from because they have a combination of fungus and insects which control the plant and its growth patterns. There are no natural enemies in the UK for Japanese Knotweed and in the process of survival of the fittest it wins every time! It can outcompete all of our native species winning light, water and vital nutrients.

You may have never seen a Japanese Knotweed plant; maybe you have but you just didn’t realise, whichever you are one thing cannot be overlooked. The damage caused by Japanese Knotweed to commercial and domestic structures is uncountable.

The plant is not classed as “controlled waste” under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and thus it has to be disposed of at licensed landfill sites. In addition to this Act it is also listed under Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which makes it a criminal offence to cause or allow the plant to spread within the wild.

What is the Laws concerning Japanese Knotweed?

As this is such an aggressive and rapid growing plant causing serious damage to commercial and domestic structures there are a number of laws which have been applied in relation to Japanese Knotweed.

The five most common legal issues which surround Japanese Knotweed are outlined below:

  • If you allow Japanese Knotweed to spread from your property onto that of your neighbours or those around you then you may be liable for court costs and any damages caused, case law substantiates this.
  •  If you aid the cause of spread of Japanese Knotweed then you are committing a criminal offence under Section 14(2) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA 1981)
  • If you are going to be disposing of Japanese Knotweed material then under the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) 1990, Duty of Care Regulations 1991 it must be disposed of as controlled waste.
  • It is not illegal to have it on your land providing you control it and it doesn’t cause any harm to others.
  • It is not a weed which you have to notify the relevant authorities about as many often wrongly believe.

What will happen if I break the laws in regards to Japanese Knotweed?

Committing an offence and breaking the law in regards to Japanese Knotweed could see you face a fine of £5000 and/or 6 months imprisonment and some have even been faced with 2 years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

What can I do to control Japanese Knotweed?

There are a number of ways in which you can control or remove Japanese Knotweed from your property. Our advice every time is get the professionals in. There are specific companies who deal with Japanese Knotweed and they will be able to execute the most cost effective way to deal with the plant for you. Professional companies can also guarantee their work and that guarantee can be insurance backed as well.

How can I get a mortgage on a property with Japanese Knotweed

Lenders pretty much across the board are concerned about Japanese Knotweed. It will be down to the Surveyor employed by the mortgage lender to recommend whether the Japanese Knotweed has caused damage to a property, or if not, whether it is likely to in the future. They may also consider the value of the property to be lower than the current market value of an equivalent property in the same area which does not have the issue.

For some lenders, if the Japanese Knotweed is not within 7 meters of the property itself, they are happy to lend, but may make it a condition that the plant is dealt with professionally within a certain time frame of completion. Other lenders set this thresh hold at 9 meters. And for others it is purely down to the comments from the surveyor in his report. Suffice to say if it is likely that the Knotweed has caused damage to the property or is within the set distance the surveyor is likely to recommend a more comprehensive report. They may also insist on a full or part retention for any mortgage.

What can be done if you are aware that there is Knotweed and you want to tackle it? Then get in the professionals. You are likely to have to put a very good case to the lender and purchase the property using a Bridging Loan or Refurbishment type mortgage product. You will need to have a set plan in place and provide full details of this to the lender. And furthermore, to have an insurance backed guarantee from the company removing it should hold you in good stead. In a case where Harvey Bowes Ltd recently arranged the mortgage, the lender agreed a 10 year Interest Only mortgage on a HMO after we negotiated that the mortgagor would arrange to extend the insurance backed guarantee from 3 years (as offered by the professional company removing the Knotweed) to 10 years. This was achieved on a light refurbishment commercial mortgage and the insurance policy was relatively inexpensive in comparison to the discounted price of the property due to the Knotweed issue and the lender agreed to lend on standard terms.

If you have a Japanese Knotweed mortgage requirement, why not talk to Harvey Bowes today, on 029 2067 6716 to see how we can help.


Video shown is a BBC issue Video as seen on youtube.


March pin meeting for property investors in Cardiff

Andy Gwynn is presenting at the Cardiff pin meeting 11th March 2014. It will prove to be a fantastic meeting designed to offer education and networking with like minded people to property investors. Whether you are new to property investing or a seasoned landlord, this is the place to be. Go to www.cardiffpin.co.uk to find out more.

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