Rural and Agricultural Property Partner, Jonathan Midgley, gives his advice on the subject of Japanese knotweed.
A recent piece of correspondence passed my desk whereby a client of another firm had been pursued a few years after a sale for a claim for misrepresentation over the presence of Japanese knotweed. The Seller had in all innocence ticked “no” to the question “Are you aware of any knotweed”.
The issue with Japanese knotweed is that it is a highly invasive and potentially destructive alien plant species which can cause problems with its roots causing damage to buildings. It is very difficult to eradicate and is often expensive and moreover can cause a degree of blight to the value of the property.
The client stated “no” but in fact in truth he wasn’t sure what Japanese knotweed was so unless you actually know whether the land has Japanese knotweed or are not sure the safer answer is to tick the box “Not known” and moreover adding something to the effect of “the Buyer should satisfy themselves prior to exchange of contracts by survey and physical inspection and to take such expert advice as they may require to satisfy themselves that there is no such presence of Japanese knotweed”. That answer although conceivably seen as longwinded would have stopped dead in the tracks the issue of a potential claim for misrepresentation.
The moral of the story is be accurate in your replies but if you don’t know and that is an acceptable legal answer simply state “not known” but invite the Buyer to make enquiries by survey or inspection.
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