So, you’re thinking of buying a new build property? Whilst you may be excited to unleash your inner interior designer and garden landscaper, you’re probably not focused on the potential problem you may face. With a new build, there’s an expectation that everything will be shiny, new and unbroken, but that’s not always the case. After all, have you considered the possibility of Japanese knotweed invading your garden?
For many people buying new builds, Japanese knotweed is often something overlooked or not even considered. The idea that developers and designers will have ironed out all the creases is a huge misconception, especially as Japanese knotweed can cause problems before your move-in day. Due to the type of property, you’re buying, it’s something that could soon pose a serious threat to your house, as well as neighbouring properties.
Why is Japanese Knotweed Such a Problem for New Builds?
The main reason Japanese knotweed causes such problems for new builds is because of the lack of TA6 form, which provides information around the property, including invasive species. For any other house purchase, homeowners would receive a TA6 form as part of the purchase. However, if your home is sold by developers or house builders, there’s no requirement for them tofill out the TA6 form. Essentially, since 2013, developers and house builders don’t legally have to disclose the presence of knotweed or any other invasive species on any property they sell.
This leaves buyers of new builds exposed to dangerous risks, and with little legal footing to fall back on. Additionally, with Japanese knotweed similar in appearance to many other plants, the damage might only be realised when it’s too late.
The other main reason that Japanese knotweed is such a problem for new builds is due to the nature of intense construction on a new build site. Japanese knotweed can lay dormant for 20 years underground, with less than a thumbnail of rhizome needed to regrow to its former glory.
In a process such as building a large development of homes, the movement of soil and creation of foundations can easily disturb these small fragments of root. More conscientious developers may pause to deal with an infestation of Japanese knotweed, but with time restraints and building delays, this isn’t often. During the building process, it’s unlikely that any knotweed will sprout up overnight. However, once your home is built and the keys handed over, it could easily start to cause havoc.
How to Spot Japanese Knotweed at your New Build
Japanese knotweed can be misidentified as bamboo or Himalayan knotweed but there are some tell-tale signs that you can spot. Identifying Japanese knotweed does require a professional, as it can often be mistaken for other plants that are harmless. Fortunately, with an expert there, they can identify the scope of the infestation and the amount of damage caused.
In early spring, you might spot reddish-purple shoots that appear in often random patches around your garden or home. They could even appear in pavement cracks or amongst garden rubble.
By late spring into summer, you will start to see very fast-growing canes, not unlike bamboo, that have shovel-shaped or heart-shaped leaves atop them.
In late summer, you may see delicate white flowers. These flowers will be on 10cm or so spikes that protrude from between the leaves. They are typically small clusters of milky white flowers.
During the winter months, it can appear as though it has completely died off. However, it’s likely fooling you. Your garden patch may be littered with hollowed-out, dead stems. It’s often in these areas you’ll find Japanese knotweed sprouting in the spring.
What Should you Do if you Find Japanese Knotweed at your New Build?
If you suspect Japanese knotweed on your new build property one of the first things, you should do is to request a survey. If your house is still under warranty, it’s a good idea to get the builder or developer to try and arrange this. Unfortunately, many will argue against this, which can cause more stress.
We also offer a free identification service, where you can send us a photo of a plant you suspect to be knotweed, and we’ll give you a no-obligation idea of what we think it is. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org with the suspect plant, and we’ll be in touch.
If you’re lucky enough to spot the knotweed before you purchase, instruct your solicitor to get the property developer to carry out a survey and removal. While they have no obligation to fill out a TA6 form, as the landowner, they have the onus to remove any invasive species before they hand over the property to you.
Should You Get a Survey on Your New Build?
If you aren’t getting a survey on your new build but suspect Japanese knotweed or another invasive species then it may be worth getting a survey. You could organise either a specialist invasive species survey or a RICS Level 3 Survey. An invasive species survey directly addresses Japanese knotweed and other invasive species, whereas a RICS Level 3 may spot knotweed, but won’t be able to go much further due to the nature of what a RICS Level 3 checks.
It's always best to get an invasive species survey if you suspect anything, as the surveyor is not only accredited by RICS but also by the PCA (Property Care Association) as an invasive weed specialist. This gives you peace of mind that the person you’re speaking to is a genuine expert in identifying invasive species.
Do you Suspect Japanese Knotweed on your New Build?
We can help. Here at Japanese Knotweed Specialists, we’ve worked with many new build homeowners who have fallen foul of Japanese knotweed. For a no-obligation chat, please feel free to get in touch to see how we can help with your knotweed problem.