Property owners affected by Japanese knotweed win damages

By Lauren Burns

The Court of Appeal has found in favour of owners of two properties in South Wales affected by Japanese knotweed, in a decision that was awaited with much interest among property owners in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

An increasing number of home owners in Northern Ireland have faced difficulties when attempting to develop, remortgage or sell their property as surveys have flagged issues with Japanese knotweed. The underground roots of the hazardous plant, known as "rhizomes" spread quickly and can undermine the structural integrity of buildings on the property. It is difficult to eradicate from a property, and can take time and considerable cost.

In the case before the Court of Appeal, two bungalows owned by Stephen Williams and Robin Waistell in South Wales were affected by Japanese knotweed that encroached from land  at the rear of their property owned by Network Rail. The home owners first raised concerns in 2013 about the Japanese knotweed which is through to have been on Network Rail's land for 50 years or more.

Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton said the plant carries "the risk of future physical damage to buildings, structures and installations on the land", and "imposes an immediate burden on landowners who face an increased difficulty in their ability to develop.. their land"..

He added that "Japanese knotweed can fairly be described as a natural hazard which .. interferes with the land's amenity value". However it was stressed that damages were being awarded in respect of the encroachment of the plant on to their property, and the impact on the owners’ ability to develop the land. Damages were not being awarded for any resulting loss in the value of the property.

If you are buying a house in Northern Ireland, or remortgaging or selling an existing home, contact one of the property conveyancing solicitors at Wilson Nesbitt by clicking here.