Japanese Knotweed and Cross-Boundary Issues
In recent years, it has increasingly become apparent that homeowners are experiencing difficulties in selling their properties due to a Japanese Knotweed infestation on adjacent land. This can potentially become an awkward situation, which has caused many acrimonious neighbourhood disputes and claims of public nuisance. Whilst some of the legislation implemented through parliament is rather weak (and certainly wasn’t introduced with the issues of addressing Japanese Knotweed), there has been some recent caselaw – Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd v Williams and Waistell 2018 EWCA Civ 1514 which may help landowners who are affected by Japanese Knotweed ‘encroachment’ or the potential for it to occur.
This link explains the case against Network Rail and discusses what you should know as a landowner when you are notified that Japanese Knotweed is having an adverse effect on another property or landowner.
Community Protection Notices – Anti-Social Behavior, Crime and Policing Act 2014
Japan knotweed or other plants that can cause serious problems to communities are capable of being the subject of a Community Protection Notice (CPN) under s.57 of The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. Local councils and the police (in most cases it will be the local council) will have the power to issue notices for invasive non-native species like Japanese Knotweed and, if necessary, force them to take whatever measures are required to prevent any detrimental effect on the quality of life of the community. Breaching a requirement of a community protection notice without reasonable excuse would be a criminal offence, which carries a fine of £100 or prosecution. If an individual is found guilty, they would face a level 4 fine. For an organisation or a company, the fine would not exceed £20,000.
The primary objective of a Community Protection Notice (CPN) is to prevent or resolve the ‘unreasonable behaviour’ that negatively impacts the local community or individual’s quality of life. A notice can be issued to any person 16 years or over, whether they are an individual or business, and the behaviour is required to stop and, if necessary, reasonable steps to ensure it does not recur in the future.
While no ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer exists for anyone who finds themselves in this situation, we suggest you first discuss the situation amicably with the property owner. Each circumstance will hold its own intricacies, and we would agree that such an event could be highly contentious. Basically, your neighbour / the landowner may not be aware that the plants exist and may not realise the effect they will have on your long-term plans to sell your property. You may also face the added hurdle of making contact with the property owner, as quite often your conventional 2/3 bedroom property situated within an urban area may be occupied by a tenant, the property managed by a letting agency with the owner residing elsewhere or even overseas. Communication can be a real challenge.
We have been involved in many cases where the person intent on selling their property has paid for the JKMP and subsequent remedial work resulting from an infestation in the land of another party. Unfortunately, if a situation dictates you must move sooner rather than later and time is short, any property owner will need to decide whether to incur additional expenditures. The matter is made increasingly complex due to the fact providing the person who owns or has responsibility for the property containing the infestation, takes ‘reasonable steps’ to find a solution (as in treating the Japanese Knotweed by themselves), there is very little you can do as a neighbour to invoke a swift remedy. Ultimately, you may have to appease any prospective mortgage lender, and any sale may be hindered or even prevented in the long run. (https://asbhelp.co.uk/community-protection-notices/)