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The threat of Japanese Knotweed

Tuesday 21 February 2017

If you haven't ever heard of Japanese Knotweed, the Environment Agency describe it as "indisputably the UK's most aggressive and destructive plant".

Growing up to an inch a day, Knotweed has the ability to mature rapidly across a large surface area, with the slightest trace causing continuing problems.

Japanese Knotweed (or Fallopia Japonica) is a large, invasive plant species which finds its way into the fabric of a building, e.g. joints in concrete, cavity walls, weaknesses in broken mortar between paving slabs or bricks, and in severe circumstances, can cause major structural damage to properties.

In a landmark legal case, Network Rail is now facing compensation claims after they ignored pleas by residents to remove the Japanese Knotweed growing on its land after it encroached on to their homes.

Neighbours Robin Waistell and Stephen Williams saw the value of their homes halved after the weed spread into the foundations which resulted in Mr Waistell unable to sell his house. It is virtually impossible to secure finance on land or property with Japanese Knotweed on or adjacent to it as UK banks and lending institutions will not give mortgages on properties affected by knotweed.

After a four-day hearing at Cardiff County Court, the rail giant was ordered to pay £4,320 to each of the men to treat the knotweed and £10,000 each in compensation for the fall in value of their homes. The judge added that if the knotweed was not treated, they could also claim for the full drop in value, a substantial £66,000.

So, what advice can you give to your customers on how best to spot and tackle Japanese Knotweed?

Knotweed is often identified during site surveys. Whilst it may look small and contained, do not underestimate the scale of the potential problem; the plant can grow up to nine feet in height and roots up to three metres deep. It is important to have the plant treated as soon as possible to avoid further growth and prevent the property sale from falling through.

Financially, eradication of Japanese Knotweed can become costly if left untreated.

For more information, our useful guide on Knotweed sets out eight top tips on what to look out for and how to deal with the plant.