Imagine losing 40% of the value of your home. In the current market, where the average UK house price is £197,000, it is an incredible amount to lose.
That is the reality facing retired couple Liz and Adrian Atkinson from Belfast after Japanese Knotweed took control of their property. Experts investigating the infestation in the Atkinson’s garden say it is one of the worst cases they have ever seen. The situation is even worse for the Atkinsons though, because the knotweed has entered their property from neighbouring wasteland.
Stories of knotweed slashing property values are nothing new of course, but this recent high profile case is turning the spotlight onto one of the most pressing issues surrounding Japanese knotweed today: When knotweed enters a property from neighbouring land, who is truly responsible for it?
Japanese knotweed on neighbouring land
The Atkinsons say they bought the house 18 years ago because of its attractive views, but the steep hillside that was once covered in bracken is now a dense forest of knotweed.
The worst part is, nobody knows who the land belongs to. It is acknowledged that the land is owned a public body, but which one remains ambiguous.
Mr Atkinson said "We've written to the Housing Executive and they said it belonged to the council, we wrote to the council and they said it didn't. It's been batted back and forward [ever since]."
While this back and forth has been going on, the Japanese knotweed has grown two metres tall on the Atkinson’s side of the fence and has started pushing through concrete in their garden.
On top of this, the couple recently discovered the shock news that the knotweed has wiped 40% off the value of their home. Adrian, who is disabled, will eventually need to move into a more suitable single-floor property, but the couple cannot sell their home at such a discount and are currently helpless.
What can be done?
Unfortunately, until the owner of the land is found, the Atkinsons, and many like them, will have to deal with the Japanese knotweed on their own. Given the scale of the work in this case, it would be a prohibitively expensive and labour intensive task.
Even when the owner of the land is identified they would have been taken to court to be made legally responsible for the weed. At the moment there is no legal imperative for someone to clear knotweed from their land unless it can be judged to affect a neighbour to such a degree that a charge can be enforced under anti-social behaviour laws.
The Department of Environment advises homeowners to contact the Property Care Association for guidance for dealing with Japanese knotweed in residential settings, even if the infestation is not on their own land.
The wise solution
Wise Knotweed Solutions are Scotland’s leading Japanese knotweed experts and we can offer treatment programmes from our branches all across Scotland.
In cases like the Atkinsons, where the owner of the neighbouring land cannot be established, a treatment option would tricky to recommend without a full Japanese knotweed survey. That said, Japanese knotweed barriers can be effective when neighbouring knotweed is too extensive to treat chemically. If the barrier can keep the knotweed seven metres from the property, then most banks and building societies should be willing to lend.