Japanese Knotweed frightens lenders

19 November 2012

In the current economic climate, banks and building societies are taking an increasingly cautious and risk-averse approach when it comes to approving mortgages. This situation might explain the current policy of several lenders when it comes to an innocuous but potentially destructive plant that has spread throughout the UK: Japanese Knotweed.

First imported to this country in Victorian times as an ornamental shrub, it has since spread out of control due to its invasive qualities. The reason why it is so feared by lenders and homeowners alike is due to the way it grows, and the structure of its roots and stems. These stems eventually decay leaving a hollow, dead tube. The roots also can grow horizontally over an area of 7 metres. These unusual characteristics, coupled with its fast growing nature (it can grow to a height of 3 – 4 metres in around 10 weeks) mean that if it is growing within the boundaries of a building, it can be bad news, compromising structural integrity. The roots can grow through solid material such as concrete.

Unfortunately, this is not just a weed that can be pulled out. A tiny fragment of the root can quickly grow to become a large plant. The only remedy is an extensive – and often expensive -  course of treatment, which effectively injects the plant with a chemical that fills the hollow spaces that it can leave when the plant dies. In some cases the treatment has to be carried out over several years in order to be effective. Traces of the plant must be disposed of in a controlled way due the the plant being classed as controlled waste under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the local authority should be contacted for advice. It is also worth noting that it is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to grow the plant.

Until recently, the problem did not seem to deter lenders but now the housing market is more challenging, many banks and building societies are refusing to lend. And some are taking ever more extreme lengths to ensure it is not in the vicinity of the property.  There have been calls for action to prevent lenders unnecessarily turning down borrowers or preventing moves, leaving homebuyers in limbo. For many, the refusal to lend is seen as an overreaction.

The government has spent significant sums on tackling the problem. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs released into the wild a certain species of aphid more commonly found in Japan, where the knotweed derives from but does not cause problems due to being kept at bay by the insects.

To add to the problem, many surveyors will exclude the requirement for them to report on the presence of Japanese knotweed due to the uncertainty over whether it is lying dormant within property boundaries. This could leave buyers with a nasty surprise further down the line when the plant begins to grow.

If you are thinking of buying or selling a property where Japanese Knotweed could be an issue, Inksters can advise you on the potential issues that might arise, particularly with lenders. Contact Brian Inkster or Louise King at our Glasgow office.


Bookmark and Share



blog comments powered by Disqus

Related Information


Internal Pages