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A Knotty Problem

Saturday, September 26, 2020

I rang the Agent about the property I mentioned yesterday.  Seemingly there is already an offer on the place but the Vendor has asked the Agent to keep marketing it. Which suggests the offer is under the asking price. And/or there's some doubt about the buyer's position.  I've arranged a viewing for Tuesday.  Today I took a walk round there to look at the outside.  The roof looks to be in reasonable condition which is always a good start!  

The knotweed problem on the adjoining land is another matter.

The thing with Japanese Knotweed [or Welsh Knotweed as I have taken to calling it due to it being so prevalent around here] is that it's VERY invasive and can cause structural damage.  So much so that when selling a property in the UK, it is now a requirement to answer questions about whether there is knotweed in the vicinity.  Basically you can answer, Yes, No, or - I don't know.  But if you answer no, and it turns out there is, you could get prosecuted!  In addition, Estate Agents are required to include the information that there is knotweed in the vicinity if it is known.  Hence Estate Agents have mostly learnt to recognise it.  Given there is seemingly knotweed on land just behind my property, I need to look into whether there was a breach of the law by the Agent handling the sale.  It may be because it's not within 7 metres they didn't need to include that information. 

Why does 7m matter?  Because if there's knotweed within 7m lenders won't offer a mortgage on the property.  As you can imagine, this causes all sorts of problems for people when they are trying to sell a property that has knotweed. Effectively they can only sell to 'cash buyers' which reduces the value of the property massively.  To put it in perspective, the house I will be viewing on Tuesday was put on the market in January for 33% LESS than what it last sold for in 2006 [yes I do my homework].  That's a MASSIVE drop.  And to date, it still hasn't actually been sold.  

Legally, if you have knotweed on your land, you're not obliged to have it removed.  But you ARE obliged to make sure it doesn't affect your neighbours.  Realistically, removal needs professional help and will take up to five years to get the 'all clear'.  At a minimum cost of £3,000.  The longer you leave dealing with it, the more difficult it will be to get rid and therefore the more it will cost you.  Given the impact it has on the value of your property, it makes sense to bite the bullet if you can and have it dealt with.  

So from my perspective as a cash buyer [therefore not having to worry about getting a mortgage], all I need to do regarding a house that has knotweed within its boundary, is calculate the cost of removal when deciding upon my offer.  However, what if the knotweed isn't within the boundary of the property, but is within 7m?  Well you'd still calculate that within the price of your offer, but you'd approach the owner of the land to request they get it dealt with.  If they don't, there are legal processes to force the issue.  All well and good.  A pain but it can be dealt with.  Indeed if you know who owns the land and they can't afford to have it dealt with, you could choose to pay for it anyway to protect your own investment - as long as the owner agrees.  And why wouldn't they?  That would be my inclination rather than go through The Courts. 

However, what if you can't find out who owns the land with the knotweed?  That is the issue with the house I'm looking at on Tuesday.  Seemingly Land Registry doesn't have a record of who owns the infested land in question.  So what I need to investigate is what you can do in that situation? Is there a point at which you can just have it dealt with [at your own cost] or will you be stymied because technically that would be trespassing? 

Regardless of whether I would want to buy the house I'm going to view, I'm starting to get a bee in my bonnet on this subject.  I feel the beginnings of a campaign coming on.....

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