On the 3rd July 2018 the Court of Appeal handed down its judgment in the case of Waistell & Williams v Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd, and in doing so set a landmark legal precedent and 'case law' for the control of Japanese knotweed.
The Court of Appeal dismissed Network Rail’s appeal and upheld in most part the ruling made in February 2017 at Cardiff County Court, that Network Rail had caused an actionable nuisance by failing to control Japanese knotweed.
The County Court judgement was the result of private nuisance claims filed in 2015 against Network Rail by Mr Robin Waistell and Mr Stephen Williams. Neighbours Waistell and Williams, who own adjoining semi-detached bungalows in South Wales had argued that Japanese knotweed on neighbouring Network Rail land was interfering with their properties and reducing their market value.
The Court of Appeal judgement found that although the mere presence of knotweed on an adjoining property may not be capable of presenting a nuisance (a claim in part based on lender caution in such situations), once knotweed had encroached onto another property, that does amount to physical damage and an actionable nuisance.
Extracts from the appeal judgement stated that the spread of Japanese knotweed rhizomes:
‘...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’. ‘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.’
Charles Lyndon Solicitors for Mr Waistell, said ‘Hopefully now organisations like Network Rail will take their responsibilities seriously and remove the knotweed on their properties. As one of the few firms specialising in Japanese knotweed, we have successfully represented a huge number of clients affected by Japanese knotweed and ensured they are compensated for the cost of treating the Japanese knotweed and the impact of it on the value of their properties.’. Lincolnshire firm JMP Solicitors, which represented Mr Williams, says it has hundreds of cases against public bodies and new home builders who have not addressed the knotweed problem.
The Law Society's TA6 property information form requires sellers to state whether the property is affected by Japanese knotweed. JMP Solicitors warned: 'If you answer untruthfully "no" or "don't know", your buyer can come back to you and either rescind the contract or get damages from you as the property is now worth a lot less than they thought.'
Japanese Knotweed Ltd work closely with both JMP Solicitors and Charles Lyndon, who undertook a Japanese knotweed property risk survey for the Waistell private nuisance claim. The full PDF version of the Judgment can be seen here. For the press summary, click here.
Here, at Japanese Knotweed Ltd, we have an in-house, expert legal team and understand ‘Knotweed and the Law’. If you have a problem with Japanese knotweed encroachment, contact us for no obligation advice.