Mortgages and Japanese knotweed and other invasive plants
Demand for homes with a garden has gone through the roof as online searches for such homes registered an increase of very nearly 200% since only a few months previously.
Having your own open space in a garden is clearly appealing – it gives you room to relax or entertain outside and, of course, offers a safe play area for your children.
A garden is widely seen as enriching the lives of homeowners who have one, and this is reflected not only in any potential wow factor when you are eyeing a possible purchase but also the price. An article last year argued that a home with a garden commanded an extra £15,000 on average compared to one without – and, in some cases, might be worth an additional £20,000.
So, with all this added value, who would have thought that the presence of a garden might actually harm your chances of getting a mortgage? But not so much presence of a garden, but what might be growing in it – i.e. the dreaded Japanese knotweed or other invasive plants.
What are the issues surrounding mortgages and Japanese knotweed and other invasive plants? Why is it a problem?
The Consumers’ Association’s Which? magazine discussed the widespread policies of mortgage lenders who consider that the structural integrity of a property may be at risk if Japanese knotweed – or some other equally invasive plant – has crept to within seven metres of the property. It makes it difficult to get a mortgage with Japanese knotweed anywhere close to the property.
The website Knotweed Help refers to the stigma attached to the presence of knotweed and the fact that it may reduce the value of a property by as much as 25% unless the growth is appropriately treated.
If a property is classified as “at-risk”, it can be challenging to secure a mortgage.
Background to Japanese knotweed
A number of invasive, non-native plants have been introduced into the UK because they were originally considered ornamental.
One of these, Japanese knotweed or fallopia japonica, was first brought to this country in the mid-19th century and has gained a particularly bad reputation. It is a fast-growing, invasive plant with roots that can spread deep underground and, if left to grow, can cause structural damage to the foundations of buildings, walls, and drainage systems.
As a result, mortgage lenders in the UK have taken a particularly dim view of loans on property where Japanese knotweed is growing within seven metres of its boundaries. Lenders’ caution is greater than in many other countries where the invasive plant has taken hold. A report by Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee in May of 2019 suggested that UK mortgage lenders may be over-reacting to the threats posed by Japanese knotweed and other invasive plants.
Research submitted to the committee suggested that the damage caused by Japanese knotweed may be no more severe than other trees and plants growing close to homes, but over which mortgage lenders exercise nothing like as strict criteria.
Nevertheless, because of many mortgage companies’ lending criteria, any nearby presence of Japanese knotweed may present severe difficulties in securing a mortgage.
Furthermore, the government website warns of the penalties you may face if you allow Japanese knotweed or other invasive species of plant to spread into a neighbour’s property. Although the law does not oblige you to remove these plants from your own property, if they are allowed to spread to a neighbour’s, you might be prosecuted or issued a community protection notice for causing a nuisance.
How do I get a mortgage on a home with Japanese knotweed?
The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) recognises that a lender may be alerted to the presence of knotweed or another invasive plant upon the valuation of the property. The lender’s reaction is likely to be determined by the severity of the infestation but will almost certainly involve proof of treatment being started to eradicate the problem.
If you are a prospective buyer and a valuation report or survey reveals the presence of knotweed, therefore, you need to consider how the plant may be eradicated, what it is going to cost to do so, and whether you or the vendor will be bearing that cost.
Therefore, the good news is that getting a mortgage on a property with the presence of knotweed or another invasive plant is not impossible – but you need to be prepared to show that the problem is being eradicated.
How much does it cost to remove knotweed?
Japanese knotweed eradication specialists, PBA Consulting Solutions, echo Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee’s conclusion that the treatment of Japanese knotweed infestation is relatively inexpensive.
PBA says that a typical treatment programme costs between £2,000 and £2,500 – around 1% to 2% of the purchase price of the average home. Successful treatment and eradication then give any new owner between 10 and 15 years’ peace of mind and reassurance that the plant is under control.
Do you have any further questions or enquiries about getting a mortgage for a property where Japanese knotweed may be a problem? Then contact us as Needing Advice to see how we can help.