Japanese knotweed – have lenders been too cautious?
We consider the recent findings of government research regarding the approach of UK lenders in relation to properties affected by Japanese knotweed.
What did the Committee conclude?
Japanese knotweed is certainly a headache for a property transaction; often creating delay, reduced valuations, extra expense and anxiety for a seller, and even causing some deals to be called off. We considered the risks of having Japanese knotweed on your land in our article, Alien Invasion: Japanese knotweed https://www.wrigleys.co.uk/news/property/alien-invasion-japanese-knotweed/ But is it as bad as we feared?
It seems that UK mortgage lenders may be taking too cautious an approach to the invasive plant. This is the conclusion reached by a parliamentary select committee, the Science and Technology Committee, who ensure government policy and decision-making are based on good scientific advice and evidence. Their research suggests that physical damage caused to a property by Japanese knotweed is in fact "no greater than that of other disruptive plants and trees that are not subject to the same controls".
What do the Committee suggest?
When Japanese knotweed is identified then the RICS risk assessment framework for this issue is, to some extent, very helpful. Some lenders are content to see insurance-backed guarantees and solid treatment programmes put in place as recommended. Others however are taking a more abrupt view, relying on certain rules in the framework (such as the so-called 'seven metre rule') which do not always take into account the facts; such as the size of the infestation and realistic risk of damage. The Committee found that a more evidence-based and proportionate approach is needed to ensure that the impact on lending decisions is proportionate to the plant's physical effects and the current 2012 framework, by RICS' own admission, needs updating.
What are the next steps?
RICS are consulting stakeholders and looking at their policy to ensure it reflects up-to-date evidence. Defra has been tasked with reporting on what is done in other countries to address the nuisance. Further news from both is expected later this year which will be welcome news to affected homeowners.
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The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors