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Problems with Japanese Knotweed

Julian Spence

Solicitor Julian Spence, in our Commercial Property team, discusses problems with Japanese Knotweed and two recent cases.

Japanese Knotweed is a much talked about, highly invasive and fast spreading weed that was first brought to the UK in 1850. Knotweed can grow through concrete and cause significant damage to homes and other properties. It is extremely difficult to eradicate and normally requires specialist treatment.

Two recent cases have highlighted the impact that Japanese Knotweed can have on the owners of neighbouring land.

In the case of Williams v Network Rail Infrastructure Limited and Waistell v Network Rail Infrastructure Limited (heard together), the joint claimants each owned a pair of adjoining semi-detached houses which backed onto an active railway line owned and operated by Network Rail. The joint claimants alleged nuisance in two ways:

by physical encroachment of the Japanese Knotweed onto the joint claimants’ land; and
by the presence of Japanese Knotweed on the defendant’s land.

Both sought injunctions against Network Rail.

The judge ruled that the joint claimants had not demonstrated damage to their land, and as such the claim regarding encroachment failed.

The judge did however find in favour of the joint claimants in their argument that the presence of Japanese Knotweed had interfered unlawfully with the use and enjoyment of their land, and damages for diminution in value were awarded.

In Smith v Line, the defendant sold some land to the claimants while retaining adjacent land. The claimants subsequently found that Japanese Knotweed was growing on their land. Their primary argument was for injunctive relief for the removal of the Japanese Knotweed from their land. The judge followed the Waistell decision, and found that the claimants’ land had not been damaged, and ruled in favour of the claimants that the Knotweed had interfered with their use or enjoyment of the land. The judge ordered a mandatory injunction requiring the defendant to enter into a contract with a reputable specialist to remove the Knotweed, and ordered the defendant to pay the claimants’ costs.

For the encroachment argument to succeed, evidence of physical damage to a property must be provided. The mere presence of Japanese Knotweed is insufficient.

It may however be possible to make a claim for damages for diminution in value of the land in the absence of being able to prove specific damage.

Both cases serve as an important reminder to landowners to contain and ideally eradicate any Japanese Knotweed found on their land.

Once Knotweed has spread to the boundary between two pieces of land, it can lead to a counter argument as to where it initially originated.

For further information or legal advice, please contact Julian Spence or a member of our team.

This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.