Who is to blame for the Japanese knotweed?

We have just noticed Japanese knotweed at the end of our new garden. This was not mentioned in the survey or in the seller’s questionnaire. Can we make a claim against the surveyor or previous owner?
Question: My girlfriend and I have just bought a house together in south-east London. Shortly after moving in, we realised there is Japanese knotweed at the far end of our garden, yet this was not made apparent to us through the basic survey or seller’s questionnaire. Do we have any claim against the seller or the surveyor?
 
Answer: When you bought your property your solicitor should have ensured that the seller’s solicitor provided a Property Information Form, which would have been fully completed, signed and dated by the seller.
 
There is a section in the form that specifically relates to Japanese knotweed, which can damage foundations and drainage and is difficult to kill. The relevant enquiry asks if the property is affected by Japanese knotweed and the seller should respond either yes, no or not known.
 
Clearly, if the seller knew that Japanese knotweed was present in the garden, but failed to disclose this in the form, that could amount to misrepresentation.
 
Whether the “basic survey” was a building survey or a lenders’ valuation, whoever carried it out should have considered whether Japanese knotweed was present. The presence and effects of this plant are one of the many considerations that may affect the value of a property and have to be considered when valuers and surveyors are assessing the market value.
 
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors has published guidance on Japanese knotweed and residential property. Speak to the lawyer who acted for you on your purchase.
 

What's your problem?
If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually but we will try to feature them here. Fiona is legal director in the real estate group of Foot Anstey LLP in Exeter (fiona.mcnulty@footanstey.com)
 
These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.

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