In a recent case Network Rail were held to be liable after Japanese knotweed grew close to neighbouring properties. The owners of the neighbouring properties felt that they may be unable to sell or remortgage their properties due to the presence of the knotweed.
It was held that Network Rail were liable in private nuisance and had to pay damages for the Japanese knotweed present on their property and it potentially spreading to adjoining properties.
The case in question held that Japanese knotweed became actionable as soon as it grew within 7 metres of a neighbouring building.
Furthermore, Network Rail were held liable for the knotweed even before it spread onto the neighbouring property. It is interesting that there was no evidence of actual physical damage to any buildings but the pure presence of knotweed and the effect it had on the adjoining properties and their value was sufficient for a successful claim to be brought.
In this particular case even though there was no physical damage caused, as the value of the adjoining property was adversely affected, a claim for damages was still possible.
This is a salutary lesson for all property owners to carry out proper investigations to ensure that any property they own or are buying does not contain Japanese knotweed to the extent that if it does, this is taken account of, and the Japanese knotweed has been properly treated with the treatment having an insurance backed guarantee.
The case did not determine whether all activities on a property which may detract from the value of any neighbouring properties will be actionable but that is something for proper consideration.
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