House-buying deal-breakers! Part 1 - invasive plants


House-buying deal-breakers! Part 1 - invasive plants

So, you’ve found your perfect home. You’ve been and looked around and you’ve even started planning where your furniture is going to go. Then you find out that there’s a problem.

How big a problem would it need to be to put you off buying the house? Of course you may not like the décor in your prospective new home, but that can easily be changed. However, some things should set huge warning bells ringing in your ears! And the more common ones are what we’re going cover in this guide.

This week we’ll cover invasive native and non-native plants, which is a big topic at the present time. Next week we’ll move onto the other big issues that could become deal-breakers.

So let’s get started.

Invasive native weeds and non-native problem plants

Fallopia Japonica, a.k.a the dreaded Japanese Knotweed (JK), is the scourge of homeowners everywhere. But this rampant, invasive plant is not the only one you need to look out for, and, yes, if you were to buy a house and then realise that there’s an invasive plant growing, you’d be legally responsible for making sure it doesn’t spread outside of your garden, which can be very difficult.

Here are the native plants to look out for:

•  common ragwort

•  spear thistle

•  creeping or field thistle

•  broad-leaved dock

•  curled dock

Like we mentioned, if you bought a house with these plants growing in the grounds, you’ll have a responsibility to prevent them spreading into the wild and causing a nuisance. If you allow these weeds to spread onto farm land, where animals could eat them, either knowingly or unknowingly, you could be served with a notice from Natural England that forces you to do something about it.  

But that’s not all! There are a number of non-native plants, including JK, that’s subject to controls regarding the spread to other properties. You are not obliged to remove or control them, but you could be prosecuted for causing a private nuisance if you allow the weeds to spread to your neighbour’s garden. These are:

•  Japanese Knotweed

•  Giant hogweed

•  Himalayan Balsalm

•  Rhododendron ponticum

•  New Zealand pigmyweed

What can you do?

If you find a house that has these weeds on the property, you should think seriously about buying it without having the current owners remove them or making some kind of adjustment to your offer to account for what professional removal of the weeds would cost you. 

Why is this important?

Some of these invasive plants may just turn out to be a nuisance and you’ll just have to keep a close eye on them. However, you may find that your mortgage provider won’t lend to you until you’ve had certain plants removed by professionals. It can cost up to £3000, take many, many years to complete the treatment and requires a lengthy guarantee to go with it, or they may refuse to lend to you outright.  

Why are they such a menace?

You may wonder why the mortgage lenders are so upset about a little plant. Well, using JK as an example, it has a system of underground rhizomes, a bit like blackberries, that it uses to spread itself about. These are tough roots that can spread meters away from the location of the above ground part of the plant, meaning that if you see it in the garden or your prospective home, it’s likely the roots are already under the foundations, around drainage pipes and so on, causing damage.

So, as long as the person selling the house is provided to allow you deduct the cost of getting the treatment, and satisfying the mortgage lender, from the asking price – there’s no issue. If they don’t and they don’t want to clear the plant themselves before they move out, maybe you should walk away.

Okay, have a few days to let that all sink in – we’ll hit you with another big deal-breaker next time!

You can head to part two of our deal-breakers here.