Vendor faces £200,000 legal bill in controversial knotweed case

A judge ruled against Jeremy Henderson after he failed to declare Japanese Knotweed on a property information form.


A home owner who sold a property with Japanese knotweed in the garden has been landed with a legal bill for £200,000 after being sued by the buyer.

When Jeremy Henderson sold a three-bedroom house in Raynes Park, London, for £700,000 in 2018 he declared there was no knotweed present, The Times reports.

But after the purchaser, Jonathan Downing, completed the purchase he discovered the invasive plant growing behind a garden shed.

Downing sued Henderson over allegations that he misrepresented the state of the property before purchase.

Henderson had answered “no” to the question on a property information form that asked whether it had been affected by knotweed. But the accountant argued that he “reasonably believed” he was telling the truth when he answered the question.

Lawyer Tom Carter, representing Downing, argued that Henderson could have answered ‘not known’ on the form.

Damages awarded

Judge Jan Luba, sitting at Central London County Court, awarded costs and damages against Henderson totalling more than £200,000.

Henderson must pay £32,000 in damages and Downing’s legal costs of up to £95,000. His own costs were estimated at almost £100,000.

In another recent case, retired NHS consultant Sheila Clark ended up with a £100,000 legal bill for failing to get rid of Japanese knotweed despite knowing that it had been in her garden for years.

The knotweed had grown through a fence onto her neighbour’s property.

Expert commentary

“This salutary tale emphasises how vital it is that sellers check their property for knotweed before selling, if they want to avoid the risk of being sued further down the line,” says Nic Seal (pictured), MD of invasive plant specialist Environet,

“The Law Society’s TA6 Property Information Form, completed by all sellers, asks a direct question about whether a property is affected by knotweed and the accompanying guidance clearly states that in order to answer ‘No’, the seller must be certain the property is not affected, including rhizome beneath the ground and within three metres of the boundary.

“A cursory glance around the garden by an untrained eye is not sufficient. Knotweed dies back during the winter months and can even lie dormant beneath the ground for up to 20 years with no sign of growth. It also takes on a completely new appearance if chemicals have been applied in an attempt to kill it, making it harder to recognise.”

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