Dorothea Antzoulatos of Charles Lyndon was recently interviewed by the Sunday Times in relation to Japanese knotweed and the law. See the full article here or below.
How to tackle Japanese knotweed
These are the things you can do to get rid of the notoriously invasive and destructive plant, which can pull down walls and disrupt foundations
May 5 2019, 12:01am, The Sunday Times
The garden behind Paul Ryb’s ground-floor flat was the main attraction when he bought part of a Victorian villa in Highgate, north London. The former investment banker says he was immediately drawn to the leafy, quiet plot, shaded by mature oak and ash trees, as it provided a peaceful haven just off busy Archway Road.
Little did he know, when he moved in just before Christmas 2014, that lurking under the ground was a dangerous menace that would consume four years of his life, in both physical and legal battles, before it was seen off.
“When I bought the flat, I paid for the most thorough type of survey because I didn’t want to take any chances,” recalls Ryb, who is partially sighted. “The garden was given the all-clear, so when my gardener told me he thought he had found Japanese knotweed, the spring after I’d moved in, I was really angry. I thought I had paid for an expert to protect me from this kind of thing.”
A survey by knotweed specialists found the invasive plant in three areas of the garden. It has now been thoroughly excavated and removed, and Ryb has successfully sued his surveyor — but he wishes he could have been spared the gruelling process of complaint and trial.
All across the country, as the spring sunshine warms the earth, attractive dark-red asparagus-like spears will pierce the soil, then produce electric-green leaves. And, soon after, the phones of surveyors, horticulturists and other experts will be ringing. As Nic Seal, managing director of the knotweed removal firm Environet (environetuk.com) puts it: “Knotweed time is here.”
Seal has been battling the notoriously invasive and destructive plant, which can pull down walls and disrupt foundations, for more than two decades. “It will survive anything,” he says. “Spraying doesn’t help — it just renders it dormant. When the soil around it is disturbed, it comes back to life.”
Solicitors specialising in knotweed complaints deal with hundreds of cases a year, most settled out of court, with damages of up to £100,000 awarded. Since 2013, sellers have been obliged to admit to having knotweed on their property in the TA6 sellers’ questionnaire. Its presence can affect mortgage applications, with lenders refusing to release funds unless the plant has been removed.
“There are three main categories of cases that we take out,” says Dorothea Antzoulatos, director of Charles Lyndon solicitors, which deals with hundreds of knotweed complaints every year. “There are cases against the surveyor for professional negligence — not spotting the knotweed in a garden. Then there are cases against sellers for fraudulent misrepresentation — not admitting to having it in their gardens — and against neighbouring property owners who have allowed knotweed to spread.”
Antzoulatos says sellers must check their gardens for signs of knotweed before filling out the TA6 form. “The buyer should end up no worse off than if they had bought somewhere that was knotweed-free,” she says.
The plant is expensive to get rid of because the only guaranteed way to do so is to excavate it, and the roots of mature knotweed can go down two metres. “We recently did an excavation job on a housing site of 50 new homes, where we had to remove 2,000 cubic metres of soil — that’s 200 lorry loads,” Seal says.
Introduced to the UK from the Far East in the 1850s, the plant is particularly prevalent in Greater London, south Wales and the northwest of England. Environet has an interactive “heat map” that allows you to check how likely it is that there will be knotweed in your area (bit.ly/2Y5MuNZ).
KNOW YOUR KNOTWEED
- From April, look for dark red or pinkish spear-shaped shoots. Through spring and early summer, these will develop into fast-growing bamboo-like stands of canes up to two metres high, with a mottled green/pink colour. The leaves are bright green and heart- or shield-shaped, and grow on alternate sides of the stems.
- Knotweed is on a list of invasive plants appended to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. While it is not illegal to have knotweed in your garden, you have a duty to prevent it from spreading.
- Knotweed can be mistaken for other species, including Himalayan honeysuckle. There is also a dwarf variety of knotweed (Fallopia japonicavar compacta) that is not subject to legislation.
- Don’t try to dig it out, as the plant can regrow from even the smallest piece of root. It has even been known to survive fire. Never dispose of it in household waste or garden rubbish bins.
- If you do try spraying with weedkiller, it will require at least three seasons of treatment. You will need a powerful chemical, so be aware of the environmental damage you may be doing.