Japanese knotweed has been a nuisance both in real terms, and at law for some years now. Our attitudes have however been able to change due to increased knowledge and awareness.
Surveyors are still expected to be fully aware of the nuisance weed when inspecting properties, and despite a more holistic approach now being taken in respect of the management of Japanese knotweed, surveyors must still ensure that their surveys are not subject to a professional negligence claim.
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) have recently published updated guidance in relation to Japanese knotweed which is effective from March 2022.
The updated RICS guidance replaces the 2012 guidance, and has considered a wide variety of reports relating to the impact of knotweed on properties and reflects an improved understanding of how Japanese knotweed behaves.
Knotweed has historically been a species to fear and has often seen lenders declining to loan against properties where the invasive plant was present. Many buyers have also been left in predicaments with their properties where the previous seller has failed to declare knotweed on the property information form, leading to buyers purchasing properties which unbeknown to them, were greatly affected by the nuisance that it is Japanese knotweed. The UK media has also fed into this, with misleading reports of knotweed being given triffid like properties.
Property surveyors have also had an important role to play in relation to knotweed. When buying a property, surveyors are required to report on the valuation of the property, and sometimes, its condition depending on the type of survey which is required. Surveyors are highly skilled professionals, whose opinions are relied upon daily. When valuing properties, and also when preparing reports in respect of the condition of the property, there is a general expectation for surveyors to be aware of Japanese knotweed.
The latest RICS guidance provides a new assessment process, which has replaced the old method of simply measuring the distance of the knotweed from the boundary of the property. This new assessment process allows for consideration of the actual impact of the knotweed on the property.
Surveyors must still exercise caution, and if knotweed is clearly visible upon inspection, then they have a duty to report to their client. A failure to report on the presence of knotweed may be negligent, especially if the knotweed was visible at the point of inspection, and if it were in one of the higher bands of the new management categories.
Surveyors cannot rely on making amendments to their standard clauses within their terms and conditions of engagement, to exclude liability relating to Japanese knotweed. Such amendments would probably not meet the requirements of the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
Sometimes surveyors act in ways which mean they have acted negligently, and this may lead to financial losses for the party who instructed them.
If you are concerned that you may have purchased a property where a surveyor has failed to report on knotweed, then you may be able to make a claim for professional negligence against the surveyor. Our specialist team of professional negligence solicitors are here to help you.
If you wish to discuss this further, please contact Kelly Lawson on +44 (0) 203 830 5535 or email: Kelly.email@example.com.
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