Japanese Knotweed and UK law

Anybody who regularly maintains their garden will be no stranger to weeds.

The majority are harmless and some can be quite visually pleasing, but often don’t fit in with flower beds and other outdoor displays.

Japanese Knotweed, however, is a completely different story. Initially, it was imported from Japan in the 19th century and used in formal gardens and parks. It eventually spread from controlled environments to the wild, which is where it became a concern.

Japanese Knotweed is incredibly invasive and spreads very quickly. It replaces other forms of flora and can disturb natural habitats, but the main concern for legal purposes is that it can grow through the foundations of houses and buildings.

Is Japanese Knotweed illegal in the UK?

The simple answer is, no, Japanese Knotweed is not illegal to have on your own property in the UK. It is, however, illegal to allow the plant to grow into the wild, whether you facilitate this or it happens naturally. In this instance, ‘the wild’ refers to most areas, excluding only horticultural land, improved pasture, settlements and private and public gardens. If you become aware of it on your property, you should get it eradicated.

Can Japanese Knotweed be removed?

It is possible to remove Japanese Knotweed, but you are advised not to try cutting it back, killing or removing it yourself. This must be carried out by a professional, which can be a complex and expensive job but is often required in order to properly remove the entirety of the plant. Once the plant is removed it is legally classified as controlled waste and therefore can only be disposed of by someone with a licence to do so.

Japanese Knotweed and residential property

All residential properties marketed in Scotland need to have a home report by a chartered surveyor, who will report any signs of the weed. If Japanese Knotweed is found, the buyers are almost guaranteed to refuse to proceed with an offer. Many mortgage lenders will refuse a mortgage if the plant is present, so when selling a property, you will be asked directly if there is Japanese Knotweed on the land. If you do not answer honestly, you will be in breach of contract by misrepresentation.

What to do if a neighbour has Japanese Knotweed

If a neighbour has the plant present on their property, there is a risk that it could spread in your direction. Not only could this potentially cause damage to your property, but it would also give you the legal responsibility to stop it from spreading further.

Unfortunately, you cannot directly force a neighbour to remove the plant as it isn’t illegal to have it on your own land. However, you may be able to take out a civil interdict action in the sheriff court against them on the grounds of legal nuisance.

If you believe a neighbour has Japanese Knotweed on their property and there is a risk of it spreading to your own, seek legal support and advice.

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