A Knotweedy Problem
The Court of Appeal has upheld a decision against Network Rail making them liable for Japanese Knotweed that was encroaching from railway lines into neighbouring property.
Japanese Knotweed is fairly well known to property owners. Originally introduced as a decorative plant it has become a powerful invasive species which has found perfect living conditions in the UK. It grows underground spreading rapidly through its rhizomes before putting up bamboo-like shoots. This underground spread means it can pass under walls and houses and also means that it can do tremendous damage to buildings. It is incredibly hard to kill and usually requires a combination of burning, chemical treatment, and physically being dug out of the ground.
Knotweed is so dangerous that it is an offence to dispose of Knotweed contaminated soil other than in specified treatment areas. Its presence on a property is also something that has to be reported during a sale and having it on your land means that you are unlikely to be able to secure any form of mortgage or other lending and can expect the value of the land to be cut by a substantial amount, if you can find a buyer at all.
Unfortunately, Knotweed is common on the side of railway tracks and spreads easily from them to neighbouring property. In this case that is precisely what occurred. Fed up with the failure of Network Rail to resolve matters, two property owners took them to court seeking removal of the Knotweed and damages. They won the case with the Recorder finding that the presence of Knotweed. Although it had not damaged their properties it caused a high level of concern and loss of amenity and amounted to a breach of the right to quiet enjoyment.
Network Rail appealed saying that Knotweed was endemic in the local area and that without property damage they were not liable. The Court of Appeal agreed that the Recorder had erred in law but nonetheless held that Network Rail were liable. The Court of Appeal found that having Knotweed on your land caused damage to the land itself, even if no structures had been damaged and therefore that someone who had permitted Knotweed to spread from their land to a neighbour would be liable for the cost of remediation and damages.
For homeowners this is an important and welcome decision. If Knotweed has come on to your land from a neighbouring property then the owner of that property should be promptly informed of the issue. They are then liable for the cost of removal and may also be liable for further damages if they do not deal with it sufficiently quickly.
Anthony Gold has experience dealing with Knotweed infestation matters and you should contact us if you have Knotweed coming on to your land from a neighbouring property.