Onus now on buyers to check for Japanese knotweed

Onus now on buyers to check for Japanese knotweed
Buyers will now be responsible for finding out whether the property they are purchasing has been invaded by Japanese knotweed if the current owner isn’t sure.

Previously sellers had to give a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer on the conveyancing form ‘TA6’ which asks them whether they were aware of Japanese knotweed growing on their property. However, the Law Society has now revised the wording on the form, so that sellers who aren’t sure if knotweed is present can now answer ‘not known’ instead of ‘no’.

If sellers respond with ‘not known’, buyers who want peace of mind that the plant isn’t present will need to conduct their own research and arrange a specialist knotweed survey.

Why the changes have been introduced

The legal process when a seller answers ‘no’ and knotweed is subsequently discovered can be complicated, and it’s often very difficult to prove that a seller was aware that knotweed was present.

Enabling sellers to answer ‘not known’ means that the onus is now on buyers to check whether the property is affected and if so, to prove that the seller has given a false answer. This effectively moves the risk from the seller to the buyer.

Impact of Japanese knotweed on mortgages

If you find Japanese knotweed is present at a property you want to buy, you might struggle to get a mortgage, as it can sometimes get into the foundations of a house, potentially weakening them.

However, some have argued that the UK takes a more cautious approach to Japanese knotweed than it should, and that decisions on lending should be proportionate to the plant’s actual physical effects.

Lenders who are prepared to offer a mortgage on a property with Japanese knotweed will usually want to see proof that the problem has been treated, along with an insurance-backed guarantee.

You can read more in our guide to Japanese knotweed here.
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