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Japanese knotweed ruling: hundreds of homeowners could seek damages

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The Court of Appeal has ruled in favour of two homeowners who claimed Japanese knotweed on land behind their houses had damaged their properties.

Solicitors have described the ruling as a “landmark” that could lead to hundreds of homeowners claiming for damages if the hazardous plant has affected their property.

Stephen Williams and Robin Waistell, owners of two semi-detached bungalows in Maesteg, South Wales, were awarded £15,000 in 2017 after they sued Network Rail, which owns the land immediately behind their properties.

The pair claimed Network Rail had failed to treat and prevent Japanese knotweed from damaging their property.

The bamboo-like weed grows quickly and spreads through its underground roots or ‘rhizomes’ and can damage the structure of buildings.

Network Rail appealed the decision, saying damages should not have been awarded.

But three Court of Appeal judges upheld the original decision.

The judgment read: “Japanese knotweed, and its roots and rhizomes, does not merely carry the risk of future physical damage to buildings, structures and installations on the land; its presence imposes an immediate burden on landowners who face an increased difficulty in their ability to develop, and in the cost of developing, their land, should they wish to do so, because of the difficulties and expense of eradicating Japanese knotweed from affected land.

“In this way, Japanese knotweed can fairly be described as a natural hazard which affects landowners’ ability fully to use and enjoy their property and, in doing so, interferes with the land’s amenity value.”

Samantha Towle, a director at JMP Solicitors representing Mr Williams, said: “This is a fantastic result for our client, Mr Williams, as well as other homeowners in a similar position.  The Court of Appeal decision confirms that the presence of Japanese Knotweed is an interference with a homeowner’s quiet enjoyment of their property which entitles them to damages, including compensation for diminution in the value of their property.

“Every homeowner should be able to sell their home at its true value but mortgage companies do not like to lend on properties that have knotweed within seven metres of a property boundary.  Through no fault of his own our client found that the value of his house was significantly affected by knotweed growing close to the boundary.”

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