The Law Society has lit the touch-paper to the Japanese Knotweed problem once more by insisting that vendors are more careful when answering questions about the weed, a move that could lead to more sales falling through.
This is because the mounting problem of knotweed in the UK means buyers in the past have been caught out by vendors saying ‘no’ when asked to disclose any problems, only for the plant to be discovered at the property and a misrepresentation case launched.
Now they are being urged to say ‘don’t know’ in a change that has been introduced into the Explanatory Notes accompanying the TA6 conveyancing form.
If vendors state ‘don’t know’ within it then buyers will have to undertake investigations of their own, and even commission a professional knotweed survey should they wish says specialist firm Environet.
This is likely to complicate and elongate the sales progression process for some transactions, and even lead to buyers pulling out of more sales.
The Law Society gives an example of a case settled last month in which a house, sold after the vendor said ‘No’ to knotweed on the TA6 form in 2014, then turned out to be riddled with the weed a year later.
After protracted legal and technical wrangles it was settled out of court at 3% of the property’s value. James Carpenter (left) from Walton Taylor LLP, who acted for the defendants in the case, says one key lesson from this tale is for vendors to only answer “No” on the TA6 Form if they are 100% certain that no knotweed exists in the ground.
“In practical terms this means that ‘Don’t Know’ is the safer alternative answer, leaving the buyer to make their own enquiries and take the risk,” he says.
Read more about knotweed.