New RICS Guidance Refines Japanese Knotweed Residential Property Assessment
At the end of January, RICS published new guidance to refine the impact of Japanese Knotweed and what this will mean for surveyors. However, not only has there been confusion over how these changes will affect homeowners and buyers, but there have also been inaccurate reports in the national press, claiming that Japanese knotweed will be disregarded unless there’s physical damage on a property.
Where there were formerly four risk categories (1-4), which defined Japanese knotweed based on its proximity to a home, these new categories focus more on the direct impact that Japanese knotweed has on the condition, use and value of a property.
The new Japanese knotweed management categories are now called ‘Management Categories’ rather than ‘risk categories.’ This slight language change denotes how RICS is now approaching Japanese knotweed, which views it as something that can be managed, rather than something that is a huge risk to homeowners.
Here are the categories:
Management Category A: Action. Here, Japanese knotweed requires action from a Japanese knotweed remediation specialist as its presence causes significant impact to the property and its access, and is likely to impact the value of the property in question. Any work done on a Management Category A area should be done under a Knotweed Management Plan and backed by an insurance-backed guarantee.
Management Category B: Action. Under Management Category B, Japanese knotweed requires remediation from a specialist company, and work must be covered by an insurance backed guarantee. Here the core difference is that Japanese knotweed doesn’t have as significant an impact; RICS names it as ‘Potentially Significant’.
Management Category C: Manage. Unlike A and B, Management Category C allows for managing Japanese knotweed, rather than requiring action. While a private homeowner may still want to seek help from a specialist company, there should be no impact on the mortgage of the home in question and no requirement to act on the knotweed.
Management Category D: Report. Category D is only used if the Japanese knotweed is off the subject property but within three meters of any boundary. Here, a remediation specialist would only be brought in if there was need for defensive action against neighbouring properties or to help instigate legal action against neighbouring properties.
What Does this Mean for Homebuyers and Sellers?
For those looking to buy or sell, not much will change. If Japanese knotweed is suspected, then you will need to get a professional survey done by a PCA approved company such as Japanese Knotweed Specialists. The changes do mean, however, that these categories are based on visually identifiable instances of Japanese knotweed only rather than any non-visible indicators, such as underground networks of roots. Therefore, if Japanese knotweed is known or suspected in the area, it’s advisable to conduct a specialist survey to provide professional advice and a robust management plan.
Similarly, an invasive weed survey report will still need to be carried out by a qualified PCA approved company, such as Japanese Knotweed Specialists, when there is believed to be Japanese knotweed present.
The TA6 Form
It’s important to note that this new guidance has no impact on the TA6 form. The TA6 Form (Seller’s Property Information Form) is a general questionnaire for property sellers. This form must be completed by an individual or company when selling a residential property. It includes everything about the property, its land and structures, from insurance, to parking and environmental matters, which includes whether Japanese Knotweed is present.
In February 2020, The Law Society published a new set of explanatory notes to help sellers fill out the TA6 form correctly. The updated guidelines can be downloaded from The Law Society’s website.
Adam Brindle (CSJK), CEO and Founder of Japanese Knotweed Specialists, said:
“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”
If you are concerned by these new guidelines and what they mean for selling or buying your home, please contact us, and we will be happy to answer any questions.