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Legal News

Landmark ruling allows UK homeowners to sue over the spread of Japanese Knotweed (18 July 2018)

Date: 18/07/2018
Duncan Lewis, Legal News Solicitors, Landmark ruling allows UK homeowners to sue over the spread of Japanese Knotweed

Following a recent ruling in the Court of Appeal, homeowners can now sue neighbours if the nuisance plant, Japanese knotweed (Fallopia Japonica) encroaches on their land.

Described by the Environment Agency as the most destructive, aggressive and invasive plant in the country, a recent survey carried out by Environet revealed that less than 20% of people could identify Japanese knotweed, highlighting an alarmingly high lack of knowledge which may be leaving some home owners at risk. As a result, The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) warned landlords to look out for the plant as they cannot rely on tenants being able to identify it.

These survey results come at the same time as a significant ruling in favour of two homeowners who sued Network Rail after Japanese knotweed entered their gardens.

The homeowners were both awarded £15,000 in damages after they sued National Rail for allowing Japanese knotweed to encroach on their land behind their homes in Maesteg, Bridgend County. The court decided that Japanese knotweed is a ‘nuisance’ and a ‘natural hazard’ that land owners must keep under control.

The homeowners initially complained in 2013 and brought a successful claim forward in February 2017, Network Rail challenged this but the Court of Appeal ruled that home owners were entitled to damages because the plant’s rhizomes had extended beneath both properties.

The judge, Sir Terrance Etherton said;

“[Japanese knotweed’s] presence imposes an immediate burden on landowners who face an increased difficulty in their ability to develop, and in the cost of developing, their land, should they wish to do so, because of the difficulties and expense of eradicating Japanese knotweed from affected land.”

Duncan Lewis’ Housing Director, Chinedu Orogbu lays out the existing legislation relevant to issue of the Japanese knotweed.

  1. Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

  2. Section 14(2) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 provides that;

    “If any person plants or otherwise causes to grow in the wild any plant which is included in Part 2 of Schedule 9, he shall be guilty of an offence.” Japanese knotweed is one of the plants listed in Part 2 of Schedule 9.

    An offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act can result in a criminal prosecution.

  3. Environmental Protection Act 1990

  4. Under the EPA 1990, Japanese knotweed is deemed to be a controlled waste and therefore must be disposed of at a licensed landfill site.

    An infringement under the Environmental Protection Act can result in enforcement action being taken by the Environment Agency which can result in an unlimited fine.

  5. Private Nuisance Law

  6. Claims between the parties for the spread of and damage caused by Japanese knotweed is covered by Private Nuisance Law. Private Nuisance Law is concerned with protecting the rights of an occupier in respect of unreasonable interference with the enjoyment or use of his land. The parties are in most cases neighbours.

Chinedu points out how the Private Nuisance Law helped the homeowners in Maesteg win their case,

“In this regard the Court of Appeal in the case of Network Rail Infrastructure Limited v Stephen Williams and Robin Waistell [2018] EWCA Civ 1514 has held that encroachment of Japanese knotweed onto the Claimants land from property owned by Network Rail constituted a nuisance for which the Claimants were entitled to damages. The rationale for so holding was that presence of and encroachment of the Japanese knotweed onto the claimants land/properties had diminished their ability to enjoy the amenity and utility of their properties.”

In property cases, time can be of the essence and we recommend that clients get in touch as soon as possible for legal advice on making a claim in a Japanese knotweed disputes, so that the appropriate action can be taken against the opponent to protect your property.

Under civil law, claims can usually be made within six years of a dispute starting – however, Japanese knotweed can grow at an alarming rate and taking legal action early can protect your interests and your property.

For expert housing advice, contact Housing Director Chinedu Orogbu on 020 7923 8410 or email him at chineduo@duncanlewis.com.

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