Conveyancing solicitors urged to pose Japanese Knotweed question on new home purchases

Conveyancing solicitors acting for buyers of new build homes are being urged to ask developers if Japanese knotweed has ever been present on the land to avoid future litigation if the destructive weed appears at a later date. Japanese knotweed is number one on the Environment Agency’s list of the UK’s most invasive plant species.

For new build properties, there is no requirement for the seller to complete the TA6 form, which includes a specific question on knotweed. However, Japanese knotweed removal specialist Environet UK says it is in both the solicitor’s and buyer’s interest to establish if the land was treated for knotweed prior to or during the construction works, to avoid future costly claims if the quick-growing plant reappears.

The call to conveyancers comes after Environet UK has seen an increase in the incidence of Japanese knotweed growing on new build properties where the developer is reluctant to accept any responsibility for the obvious defect.

Nic Seal, MD 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.”

Specialist Japanese knotweed Indemnity Insurance will protect the buyer for 10 years and their lender for the duration of the mortgage. The policy covers the costs of treatment, repairs, legal costs for third party claims and any proven diminution of the property’s value as a result of a claim, when the property is sold.

Kindly shared by Environet