A knotty issue

A knotty issue

Japanese Knotweed has been the subject of almost as much debate as Brexit recently, but while the jury is still out on exactly how destructive this pervasive weed can be, there’s no doubt that it is still proving a serious problem for house buyers.

A lot has been written about Japanese Knotweed, and a lot of that has been contradictory. Conveyancers are reporting that knotweed cases are on the increase in London, where it is growing at a spectacular rate of up to four inches a day - it’s even been described by the Environment Agency as the UK’s “most aggressive and destructive plant”. Yet a Science and Technology Select Committee inquiry into the impact the plant has on the urban environment found that “the current approach to Japanese knotweed is ‘overly cautious’”, and that more research is needed into the effects.

While opinion continues to be divided, court rulings like Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd v Williams still have an impact on the demand for indemnity cover, not least because they create another risk of financial loss that lenders will want to mitigate against. The presence of knotweed on, or near, a property can significantly reduce its value, and some lenders will even refuse to lend on properties known to be affected, or at least they will require evidence of a treatment plan to eradicate the plant as a condition of lending.

To be, or Knotweed to be…

The question on the TA6 form aims to establish whether a property is affected by Japanese Knotweed, but it can be difficult to prove whether a ‘no’ answer was an honest response at the time of completion, or if the seller deliberately misrepresented their situation to avoid expense and delay. We have seen two recent claims, both where the current owners had inherited a legal indemnity policy, and where the vendors had each answered ‘No’ on the TA6, yet shoots are now appearing on the properties, without signs of growth on any neighbouring plots. In both cases, rather than getting caught up trying to establish fault, the lender and the insured wanted to focus on a quick resolution to eradicate the plant and limit any negative impact on the value of the property.

A quick solution

Both claims were swiftly resolved by our experienced claims team, who work closely with Environet, one of the UK’s leading Japanese knotweed specialists. After a short investigation we agreed to pay out in each case for measures to be taken to eradicate the weed. Quite simply, our policy provides cover in the event that knotweed is discovered at the property after the policy commencement date, following a 'No' or 'Not known' answer being given on the property information form. And even if the question is answered 'Yes', our policy will protect against recurrence of a knotweed problem after the policy commencement date, provided any required works are completed first.

As the arguments continue over how destructive or not the plant is, there is little doubt of the value of having an indemnity in place.

Premiums start from as little as £65 for a £100,000 limit of indemnity. Quotes can be obtained by calling 01603 617617 and speaking to one of the broker team.