Homeowners look out for Japanese Knotweed

Thursday 02nd August 2018 06:46 EDT

Homeowners can now sue neighbours if the plant, Japanese knotweed, spreads onto their land following a recent Court of Appeal ruling. Japanese knotweed is described by the Environment Agency (EA) as the most invasive plant in the UK, which can spread rapidly and damage property. A survey by the EA found that less than 20% of people could identify the plant, leaving some homeowners at risk. 

These results come alongside the ruling which saw two homeowners in Maesteg, Bridgend County, successfully claim against Network Rail after Japanese knotweed encroached on their property. Both were awarded £15,000 in damages, with the court deciding that Japanese knotweed should be considered a ‘nuisance’ and a ‘natural hazard’ that landowners must keep under control. Network Rail refuted the claim but the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the homeowners because the plant’s rhizomes extended beneath both properties. 

Duncan Lewis’ Housing/ Litigation Director, Chinedu Orogbu, lays out the existing legislation: Section 14(2) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 provides that; “If any person plants or otherwise causes to grow in the wild any plant which is included in Part 2 of Schedule 9, he shall be guilty of an offence.” Japanese knotweed comes under this category. An offence under this Act can result in a criminal prosecution. Under the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) 1990, Japanese knotweed is defined as controlled waste which must be disposed of at a licensed landfill site. Failure to do so can result in enforcement action and an unlimited fine. 

Japanese knotweed claims between parties for the spread of/ damage caused is covered by Private Nuisance Law (PNL). PNL protects an occupier’s rights in respect to interference with the enjoyment/use of their land. 

Chinedu comments:
“The Court of Appeal in the case of Network Rail Infrastructure Limited v Stephen Williams and Robin Waistell [2018] EWCA Civ 1514 held that encroachment of Japanese knotweed onto the Claimants’ land from property owned by Network Rail constituted a nuisance and that Claimants were entitled to damages. This was because the presence and encroachment of the Japanese knotweed onto the Claimants properties had diminished their ability to enjoy the amenity and utility of their properties.” Under the Statute of Limitations, claims in tort (except personal injury) and contract can usually be made within six years of a dispute starting. In all property cases, we recommend seeking legal advice as soon as possible, and since Japanese knotweed grows at such an alarming rate, action needs to be taken with haste to protect your home.

For expert advice, contact Chinedu Orogbu on 020 7923 8410 or email him at [email protected].

Duncan Lewis Housing Solicitors

Our Housing /Litigation Solicitors can advise clients on claims concerning the Environment Act, the Wildlife Countryside Act and Private Nuisance Law, as well as tenants/landlord disputes, issues arising with local housing authorities, housing applications, ownership and repairs. If you have a housing related query contact our team of expert solicitors on 0333 772 0409.

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