Residential surveyors have a duty of care to both the homebuyer and the mortgage lender to identify Japanese knotweed during a survey, even if the seller has attempted to hide it. While they aren’t expected to dig up the ground, vigilance is required, along with a good awareness of the various methods of concealment to ensure they don’t find themselves being sued for negligence further down the line.
This subject has had a great deal of attention in the media lately, following our client Paul Ryb’s successful legal action against his surveyor who failed to identify Japanese knotweed growing in his garden when he bought his property. The extensive root system proved it had been there for several years and the presence of dead canes suggested it hadn’t been cut down in an attempt to conceal it during the survey.
This important case highlights the risks to surveyors if they fail to spot or recognise Japanese knotweed, so what additional steps can they take to protect themselves?
Earlier this year, we launched Exposed: The Japanese Knotweed Heatmap, a unique tracking tool which provides an interactive online heatmap of Japanese knotweed sightings across the UK. The map has already been populated with thousands of infestations through our own historical records and new verified sightings are being uploaded daily following blanket press coverage of the launch earlier this spring, including this piece in the Mail Online.
Exposed is already proving to be a valuable resource for property professionals involved in residential transactions, enabling surveyors to build a picture of the local Japanese knotweed landscape. If there is a high number of infestations in the vicinity, extra vigilance is required and if in doubt the surveyor should recommend further investigation.
They could also advise the buyer to take out an inexpensive Japanese knotweed indemnity policy which would cover the cost of treatment, repairs, legal costs for third party claims and any proven diminution in their property when it is sold.