Paul Ryb has won his legal case against a Chartered Surveyor who failed to identify Japanese knotweed prior to him purchasing his £1.2m London Flat.
Mr Ryb, commissioned the Surveyor to carry out a Level Three RICs Building Survey of the ground floor flat. The survey, which is the most comprehensive available includes a ‘visual inspection of the grounds‘. The surveyor gave the home a clean bill of health and recommended that the sale go ahead as planned.
The following year, Mr Ryb’s gardener discovered what he believed to be the plant in question. Following an inspection from a specialist firm, the plant was confirmed to be Japanese knotweed which had been there for more than three years and was visible in multiple locations. Mr Ryb instructed the firm to remove the plant as a cost of over £10,000.
Judge Luba QC, found in favour of the claimant and awarded him damages and costs of £50,000, and also took into account the diminution of property value.
Following on from the judgement, Paul Ryb commented:
“I bought the property in good faith following a building survey which gave it a clean bill of health. I would not have gone ahead with the purchase, or at the very least would have renegotiated the price, if I had known it was affected by Japanese knotweed. I am relieved to have finally won my case and I hope it gives hope to other homeowners who find themselves in a similar situation, that they may have a legal case for compensation.”
Nic Seal, Founder and Managing Director of Environet, said:
“Homeowners who instruct a building survey when they buy a property, should be able to trust a professional surveyor to identify Japanese knotweed. This case sends out a strong message that they will be protected by the law if their surveyor fails in his or her duty of care.
“However, if a homeowner makes deliberate attempts to cover or hide knotweed, a surveyor cannot reasonably be expected to dig up the ground. In that case, the buyer may decide to seek damages from the seller for failing to disclose and deliberately concealing the knotweed.”
Japanese knotweed can play a big part in the surveying process of a home. It’s a topic that can lay heavy in people’s minds. As a result of this the issue was discussed by The Science and Technology Select Committee, who in January 2019 held an Inquiry into the impact it has on the built environment.
The Committee found that “the current approach to Japanese knotweed is ‘overly cautious’ and more academic research is needed into its effects in the built environment.” It recommended that The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) commission a study of international approaches to the plant in the context of property sales to further inform discussions on the issue. DEFRA are due to report back with their findings at the end of the year.
Mark Montaldo, Solicitor, Head of Litigation at KnotweedHelp.com, said:
“The guidelines are cautious for a reason. We’ve seen many cases where knotweed has caused damage to a property and without effective treatment it continues to grow and blight the property. We agree that more research is needed, but it is wrong to say mortgage lenders and homeowners are relying on incorrect scientific advice. What we need is a more collaborative approach to gathering and studying evidence from the past few decades, and a stronger focus on regulations for treating knotweed. It is only with effective treatment that we can combat the spread of knotweed and stop it from becoming a bigger problem than it already is. ”
Does this ruling make you more aware of the importance of searching for Japanese knotweed when conducting your surveys? Are you seeing more properties infected with Japanese knotweed?