On the 7th February 2020, The Law Society published the revised TA6 Property Information Form (“the TA6 Form”).

The purpose of the TA6 Form is to provide buyers with important information about the property they are considering purchasing, with the information coming directly from the seller.

The revised wording of the TA6 Form, which is to be used on an interim basis, comes following recommendations from the House of Commons Parliamentary Select Committee ‘Japanese Knotweed and the Built Environment’ which sat in early 2019.

The Committee recommended that, amongst other things, the wording of question 7.8 on the TA6 be reviewed in an attempt to make the position clearer for both sellers and purchasers.

What are the changes?

– highlighting that information ought to be provided to a buyer if the seller is aware that there is a treatment plan in place
– replacing “eradication” with “managing its regrowth”
– adding an “unknown” response on the basis that knotweed can be difficult for a homeowner to detect.

Previously the guidance to completing question 7.8 of the TA6 stated:

The seller should state whether the property is affected by Japanese knotweed.”

The revised guidance now goes much further and states:

“The seller should state whether the property is affected by Japanese knotweed. If you are unsure that Japanese knotweed exists above or below ground or whether it has previously been managed on the property, please indicate this as ‘Not known’. If No is chosen as an answer the seller must be certain that no rhizome (root) is present in the ground of the property, or within 3 metres of the property boundary even if there are no visible signs above ground.”

What does this all mean?

For the seller, in practical terms, this means they can no longer tick ‘No’ on the TA6 and, if knotweed is subsequently discovered, seek to rely on a defence of having carried out reasonable checks and completing the TA6 to the best of their knowledge and belief.

In order to now safely tick ‘No’, the seller will arguably need to have commissioning a professional Japanese knotweed survey and the knotweed expert will need to have done a trial dig to check for rhizomes. However, it is highly unlikely that a reputable, PCA regulated knotweed expert would ever give a guarantee that knotweed rhizome is not present because even if the rhizomes are not in the section of garden that has undergone the trial dig, that is not to say they are not in another section.

In reality, it is far more likely that the seller will tick the ‘Not known’ option and shift the onus onto the purchaser to carry out their own investigations.

This change is likely to result in fewer misrepresentation cases against sellers who have ticked ‘No’ as their basis for doing so should now be clear. Further, there are likely to be far fewer sellers who tick ‘No’. However, it is still open to purchasers to pursue a claim for fraudulent misrepresentation where ‘Not known’ has been ticked but there is evidence to prove the seller was actually aware of the presence of knotweed.

The wording of the TA6 Form is to be reviewed again by The Law Society once the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has completed its own research into the treatment of Japanese knotweed in the conveyancing process in other jurisdictions. This was another recommendation for the Parliamentary Select Committee.

If you have recently purchased a property and have discovered Japanese knotweed that you were not made aware of during the conveyancing process, you may have a claim for compensation. Get in touch with the specialist solicitors at Charles Lyndon for a free telephone consultation by calling 0207 058 0050 or emailing [email protected]