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08 Aug, 2023/ by Surveyor Local /News

A weed, as the quotation is attributed to George Washington Carver, is simply a flower that's growing in the wrong place.

The truth of this statement is clear particularly for fastidious gardeners who might spend hours getting their lawn into a perfect spread of just grass without all those annoying dandelions, daisies, clover, buttercups and other meadow plants, while their borders are clear of anything except the planted flowers, shrubs and bushes.

This is notwithstanding the fact that some gardening methods (never mind the use of certain insecticides, weedkillers and other pollutants that some use in their pursuit of garden perfection) are having an adverse effect on the biodiversity. In particular, the worst affected are the pollinators, without which, gardens will necessarily be all the poorer.

It's also very difficult to want to maintain a certain type of garden with annual projects such as No Mow May, which is designed to allow the grass to grow during that month, thus encouraging previously-undesired weeds to grow as these are good for the aforementioned insect pollinators.

However, there is a certain class of plant that is probably rightly classified as a weed: invasive plants.

These are usually non-native (that is, they've been introduced from other countries, from both similar and different climates). The very real problem is that they flourish in an almost exponential way. Worse, because of the way they grow, these plants put natural habitats, ecosystems and native plant species under serious threat.

Perhaps the best known of these is Japanese knotweed(Reynoutria japonica).

Japanese knotweed

According the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), the plant is characterised by dying back in the colder weather of winter, while, in summer, the rhizomes running underground come to life and sprout bamboo-like stems, which can grow quickly to over two metres in height. These rhizomes are buried deep, which is why the plant's complete and effective removal is so difficult.

It is a highly resilient plant that can grow from even small sections of rhizomes, sprouting and tunnelling through the earth very quickly.

As the RHS also notes, under the provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is illegal for anyone to cause the plant to grow wild, because of the impact on the local wildlife and other plants.

What it means to the process of buying and selling a house

As part of the preparation for sale, sellers are required to compete the TA6 Property Information Form. On this form, there is a section for declaring the existence of Japanese knotweed (if known). If you are in any doubt about what to put down, you should consult with your conveyancing solicitor for guidance. The seller must also provide any information on what is planned for its removal. 

Correspondingly, if you're buying a property, you will need to check that section of the property information form to ensure that there is no infestation of Japanese knotweed, and, if there is, what the seller has stated is in place to eradicate it. This is particularly important because the mortgage lender will likely withhold offers of a loan until the problem is cleared because of the impact (on the property and the cost). It may also be a potential deal-breaker for you, thus giving you the opportunity to walk away or renegotiate with the seller.

Another buyer action is to widen the locus of inspection - where it is safe to do so and without trespassing. The neighbouring properties may be suffering from the weed, and it might be worth talking to the owners to understand whether they are aware and, if they are, what they are planning to do about sorting the problem. In such cases, it would be worth mentioning your findings to your surveyor, too, for them to follow up. 

Be aware that any inspection in the winter months may not be that revealing as the plant dies back until the warmer months return.

Environet, the invasive plant specialists, provide a very helpful Japanese Knotweed UK Heat Map, which gives a colour-coded map of where the weed is most prevalent (red) to least prevalent or non-existent (clear). The map can be expanded or reduced according to the picture you want to get with the respect to the likelihood of the knotweed being in the area.

Getting rid of Japanese knotweed

The seller (or buyer, if this is agreed as part of the contract negotiations) is within their rights to attempt to exterminate the plant (and its rhizomes). This commonly is dealt with by the use of weedkillers and other chemicals, although there are clear warnings of the impact on the ecosystem of the garden that should be assessed - and there is no guarantee that the rhizomes will be killed off completely, so the plant is likely to make its return.

This leaves the more destructive approach of digging deep to pull up all the instances of rhizomes, which is costly and time-consuming. Furthermore, consideration needs to be given to getting rid of the resultant flowers, leaves, stems and rhizomes.

It is probably better to leave it to the specialists such as Environet, or the Property Care Association amongst others, as they have the experience, knowledge and clear processes for sorting out your Japanese knotweed problem, as well as providing guarantees for insurance purposes where required. 

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has a Professional Standard for their member surveyors to follow, when it comes to assessing risk to property of Japanese knotweed. As part of the assessment, the surveyor is given a detailed process to follow in defining the correct management approach to the weed's eradication. They will also highlight anything that needs your conveyancing solicitor to follow up.

So what you need to do as a matter of course is to order a suitable survey for your planned purchase that has a RICS-qualified chartered surveyor who knows the local area well, and who has experience of identifying and dealing with the risk assessment connected to Japanese knotweed.

And that's where it really is worth contacting Surveyor Local

Surveyor Local will provide a quote that will not change - what you are quoted is what you pay. 

You'll get one of over 100 fully-qualified RICS surveyors, who is local to the property you are buying so they will know the area and bring all that knowledge to their assessment and analysis of the issues with the new home.

Next-day bookings are usually available, and your appointed surveyor will look after arranging access to the property with the estate agent and the seller. Once the survey is complete, they will send you a PDF copy of the report by email.

Call 0800 022 4431 to get your survey quote started, or to discuss your concerns with the acquisition of your planned property.

Or you can get a quick quote, using Surveyor Local's easy-to-use quote generator. Simply put in your name, postcode, email address, phone number and an approximate value of the property (usually the agreed price), and we'll give you an instant quote for the survey work (with an email copy sent to you for your records). 

We'll do the rest once you confirm your acceptance of the quote.

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