Do You Need Indemnity Insurance for Japanese Knotweed?
Japanese knotweed has a reputation for being the UK’s most invasive and destructive plant species which can damage homes and buildings and even put off mortgage lenders.
Identifying Japanese knotweed is difficult in itself. Its upward shoots with hollow stems resemble bamboo, while its leaves are similar to several plants including dogwood. If Japanese knotweed is growing on your property, you should take steps to remove or control it as quickly as possible, or you could face legal action if it spreads to neighbouring properties or wild areas.
If Japanese knotweed has damaged your own property, it may not be covered on your home insurance, and you may require indemnity insurance as an extra layer of protection.
This blog will explain why the correct home insurance policy that covers Japanese knotweed could help save you thousands.
What is Japanese Knotweed Indemnity Insurance?
Most home/building insurance policies will not cover costs associated with Japanese knotweed, with the possible exception of legal expenses cover.
If you are buying a property and are concerned about potential risks from knotweed, a Japanese knotweed indemnity policy is recommended. This would cover the cost of a full Japanese knotweed survey and the plant’s treatment or removal. It is also likely to cover the cost of property damage and the amount it costs to restore the property to its former state, as well as any legal expenses incurred because of a claim made against you.
An insurance-backed guarantee also offers a low-cost, long-term insurance policy provided alongside the Japanese knotweed company's own guarantee. This means any regrowth will be treated free of charge during the guarantee period, even if the treatment company becomes insolvent. All the main banks and mortgage lenders will require a treatment programme and insurance backed guarantee on a property infested with knotweed before they are willing to lend, meaning an insurance backed guarantee is essential for home owners who have Japanese knotweed on their site.
How can Japanese Knotweed Indemnity Insurance Support Your Property?
When filling out the Law Society’s TA6 form, if you answer ‘No’ or ‘Not Known’ to the question relating to the presence of Japanese knotweed on your property it can negatively impact the buyer and leave them vulnerable to future costs. Luckily, the risk can be mitigated with a Japanese knotweed insurance indemnity policy which addresses the uncertainty and provides cover for the buyer and their mortgage lender. Indemnity insurance is designed for properties not known to be affected and to offer protection against future infestations on the property.
However, if you state there is no known Japanese knotweed around your premises on the T6 form, and the plant is later detected, you could be liable or even sued.
What does Japanese Knotweed Indemnity Insurance Cover?
Properties not known to be affected by Japanese knotweed will benefit from Japanese knotweed indemnity insurance. This will provide protection against the possibility of future infestations and the damage it may cause.
Most Japanese knotweed indemnity insurance covers:
Costs of a survey and detailed report by a specialist removal company.
Costs relating to the treatment or eradication of knotweed for the length of the insurance policy.
Cost of repairing the damage caused by knotweed on the insured property.
Cost of legal fees should a third party like a neighbour make a claim.
Japanese knotweed indemnity insurance should cover homeowners for between five and 10 years, and the lender for the duration of the mortgage. Any prospective buyer with concerns about the presence of knotweed should consider taking out an indemnity insurance policy. Any advice or insurance enquiries should be directed through your conveyancing solicitor.
Is it Illegal to Have Japanese Knotweed on Your Property?
No, it is not illegal to have Japanese knotweed in your garden. However, it must be kept under control, which is easier said than done, especially after a thorough garden clearance. You may think you have removed knotweed from your property, but it can quickly return as regrowth is possible from even the smallest piece of root left behind in the soil. Contaminated soil needs to be properly disposed of to avoid regrowth.
The rules are very different when Japanese knotweed is present outside your own property boundary. You could be fined up to £5,000 or imprisoned for up to two years if you are found spreading knotweed into the wild. If you allow knotweed to grow into a neighbouring property you could be served with a community protection notice.
Does my Insurance Provider Need to Know About Japanese Knotweed?
No, you are not obliged to inform your insurance provider if you have Japanese knotweed on your property unless they make a specific request for information. However, if you are asked about the presence of knotweed on your premises by your insurance provider it is important to be honest and tell them the truth. Failing to disclose information about Japanese knotweed on your property could invalidate your entire home insurance policy and may result in legal action against you.
Will my Insurance Premiums Go Up Because of Japanese Knotweed?
Your insurance premiums shouldn’t be affected by Japanese knotweed on your property – but only because most home insurance policies won’t cover the cost of its removal or the damage it has caused to buildings and solid structures, such as walls and outbuildings.
However, it is worth repeating that if your insurance provider asks you directly about Japanese knotweed on your property you must provide a truthful answer. Your insurer will expect you to take positive action to protect you and your neighbours’ property by keeping the plant in check. It is another reason why removing Japanese knotweed from your property is often the best solution.
Can Japanese Knotweed Damage Property?
Yes, Japanese knotweed can take over your garden, damage property and buildings, and even cause subsidence. It has the ability to grow through the tiniest cracks that appear in concrete and brick, causing widespread damage that is expensive to fix. Garden walls, garages, outbuildings, drains, and conservatories are most at risk from knotweed damage. In 2022 the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RISC) published new guidance abolishing its seven-metre radius rule around Japanese knotweed that caused problems for those buying and selling homes and made lenders reluctant to offer mortgages.
However, it is key that we don’t misinterpret this new guidance; Japanese knotweed is no less of a risk than before. What this new guidance does is focus on the real problems Japanese knotweed causes. The weed can grow up to 10cm a day in the growing season and, if it’s not controlled professionally, it can become incredibly intrusive, potentially growing through cracks in concrete, hard standings and foundations and stops you using and enjoying your garden. We also must not forget the ever-increasing litigation claims with Knotweed and landowners, which will continue to rise.”
Will My Home Insurance Policy Cover Japanese Knotweed Damage?
It’s highly unlikely that your home insurance will cover Japanese knotweed damage, especially in cases where damage has occurred gradually over time.
The best advice to follow is that if you are aware of knotweed on your premises, do not ignore it. If you do so, your insurance provider could argue any damage caused by knotweed is due to your own negligence and failure to take appropriate action to remove or control it.
Will Insurance Cover My Legal Expenses in the Case of Litigation Against Me?
Say, for example, your neighbour takes out a legal case against you for property damage caused by Japanese knotweed. In this instance, your home insurance policy may cover your legal costs.
Legal insurance cover can be added to most home insurance policies as an optional extra, though some policies may include legal cover as standard. The amount of legal cover can range from £25,000 to £100,000 or more depending on your policy.
What if I Find Japanese Knotweed on my Property?
The safest and best course of action to take is to hire a Japanese knotweed removal specialist to eradicate the plant from your property or devise a plan for its treatment and control. Doing the work yourself can take months or even years and incur costs running into several thousands of pounds. There is also a very real risk of Japanese knotweed returning to your land due to its relentless growth above and below the ground which could cause more potential damage. This is one of the reasons why many people turn to insurance companies for help in protecting their property and securing a guarantee that it won’t come back.
Our Japanese Knotweed Guarantees last between 5 and 35 years. Get Yours Now
At Japanese Knotweed Specialists, we are proud of our membership in the Property Care Association’s Invasive Weed Control Group. This means our Japanese knotweed guarantees ensure you are covered if the plant ever returns to your property. Find out more here.