Japanese Knotweed: What are your Obligations as a Homeowner or Landlord?

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There has been an increasing number of reports in the media over the past year regarding the invasive species, Japanese Knotweed and the implications for homeowners and landlords should they fail to eradicate this troublesome weed from their property.

While it may appear to be relatively harmless, it can cause structural damage to properly within a 7-metre radius, opening the landlord up to potential litigation, should he or she fail to take decisive action to remove it.

Therefore, as a landlord it is imperative that you are fully aware of the implications if you discover that you have Japanese knotweed growing on your property.

Why Is Japanese knotweed an Issue for Landlords?

Japanese knotweed was introduced by the Victorians in the first half of the nineteenth century as an ornamental plant. Although it appears to be relatively attractive, Japanese knotweed’s rapid annual growth is a major cause for concern, and its persistent growth ensures that is quickly overwhelms garden plants within its vicinity. It also poses a severe threat to the country’s native biodiversity by disrupting native plant species and negatively impacting upon forestry and agriculture.

Its stems are particularly dense and re-growth occurs each year due to its incredibly deeply-penetrating rhizomes. You may well have heard that the species is capable of growing through tarmac, and that is most certainly the case. While it is not illegal to have, Japanese knotweed growing on your property or failure to implement adequate control could lead to an ASBO being issued, due to the detrimental effect knotweed has upon the local community and surrounding area.

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What Should You Do If You Discover Japanese knotweed on Your Property?

Due to having a rental property located near to train tracks on the south coast, I have had the misfortune of having to eradicate Japanese knotweed. If you are fortunate enough to discover it in the relatively early stages, then you it is certainly possible to achieve eradication by digging it out.

However, as discussed earlier, due to the fact that the rhizomes can deeply penetrate the ground, regrowth will likely occur. This will also lead to an even greater issue with regards to disposal, as Japanese knotweed is classified as controlled waste under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Therefore, you should under no circumstance include it amongst your usual household waste of as part of any green waste collection scheme. There are landfill sites which are licensed to dispose of it, ensuring that the risk of contamination is eradicated.

Is It Possible to Remove Japanese Knotweed Myself?

If you are someone who particularly enjoys an invigorating challenge, then it is indeed possible to remove Japanese knotweed through digging it out yourself. You should look to remove as much of the root as possible, and remove any regrowth as soon as it occurs, however, this method is likely to take several years and could become increasingly frustrating.

If this method proves to be futile, then there is the secondary option of using specific chemicals that target Japanese knotweed. However, from the perspective of a landlord, there are numerous costly legal consequences that may arise if you are unable to provide evidence that Japanese knotweed has been completely destroyed.

This is exemplified by the fact that there is a Japanese knotweed contractor’s trade body, and a wealth of information and guidance for property surveyors; as many have found out the hard way, banks and building societies are required for it to be professionally managed and destroyed

A good friend of mine, who is not actually a landlord, was able to successfully perform removal through purchasing a specialist chemical for targeting Japanese knotweed. In this instance you should look to allow it to grow to around 3ft tall, and thoroughly spray the foliage. There will be regrowth, and therefore a second application will be required, usually in mid-summer. If, as in most cases, it is persistent, spray again in Autumn, and evaluate in the following spring.

What Are the Options for Landlords?

There are numerous companies that specialise in Japanese knotweed removal and sadly if you are landlord, or a homeowner looking to sell your home, this is the safe proof option that removes the risk of potential expensive litigation. There is also the added bonus that they are usually able to offer insurance-backed guarantees when required, which are essential.