RICS updates its Japanese Knotweed guidance

RICS – the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors – has updated its guidance that surveyors use to determine Japanese Knotweed’s risk and potential impact on a property. Its new guidance paper – Japanese Knotweed and Residential Property – follows a 2019 report by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, in which MPs said that mortgage lenders’ approach to Japanese Knotweed was ‘overly cautious’.

From March 2022, it will ask surveyors to use their discretion when determining the impact of Japanese Knotweed on a property. RICS says its latest guidance ‘reflects an improved understanding’ of the potential problems caused by the fast-growing weed, which can sometimes make selling a property or getting a mortgage more difficult. It supersedes its guidance paper on the subject, published in 2012. 

Here, we take a closer look at the changes and what it means for lenders, property owners and homebuyers.

What does the new RICS guidance state?

The new RICS guidance paper seeks to help surveyors encountering Japanese Knotweed when assessing a residential property.

It provides a new framework for surveyors to categorise Japanese Knotweed infestations and updated guidance on remediation advice for clients. The new categories are based on management rather than risk, as they were in the 2012 paper. They aim to provide more clarity to lenders, property owners and buyers on the severity of the issues posed by an infestation of Japanese Knotweed. The new category assessments are:

Management Category A

Knotweed is on-site and is causing visible material damage to a structure. In this category, surveyors will recommend lenders seek an inspection by an accredited remediation specialist and the completion of any recommended works under a Japanese Knotweed Management Plan as a condition of a mortgage advance. Surveyors will also recommend that property owners seek advice from a specialist remediation contractor.

Management Category B

Knotweed is on-site, isn’t causing material damage to a structure but is likely to prevent the use of or restrict access to amenity space. Again, mortgage lenders will be advised to obtain a specialist report and agree a suitable remedial plan. The property owner should also seek specialist advice about the appropriate action.

Management Category C

Knotweed is on-site but is not causing material damage or affecting access to/use of amenity space, so can be considered as having a low impact on the property. In this category, the advice to lenders is there ought to be no requirement for borrowers to carry out remediation work as a condition of a mortgage advance. However, surveyors should recommend that property owners seek specialist advice about future management and control, especially if the growth is within 3m of its boundaries.

Management Category D

The Knotweed is off-site but within 3m of the property’s boundary. In this category, surveyors are advised to report the situation to the lender or property owner (depending on who has commissioned the survey), but it’s not appropriate for lenders to require remediation of an infestation on adjoining land as a condition of a mortgage advance because it is effectively beyond the control of the mortgagee or property owner to impose. While proximity to the boundary means there is a possibility of future spread from off-site Japanese Knotweed, the likelihood will depend mainly on the extent of the infestation. In most cases, there is likely to be a limited impact on the property’s value unless the adjoining infestation is so severe that it requires expensive defensive measures.

Some of the other changes brought in by the new guidance include:

  • The advice given to lenders will be based on the severity of the impact
  • Surveyors will be expected to identify Japanese Knotweed only if it is ‘clearly visible’ on-site during a normal inspection
  • Surveyors will no longer be required to carry out plant-by-plant checks for Japanese Knotweed
  • The distance between Japanese Knotweed and a property’s habitable space or structures of significant value will no longer affect the management categories
  • The new assessment will consider only the area of visible growth, rather than the 7m ‘Rhizome Zone’ around the visible extent of the plant
  • The distance of off-site Knotweed to the boundary of the property has been reduced from 7m to 3m
  • The potential impact of Japanese Knotweed on amenity space – such as patios, paths and driveways – will be considered

When do the changes come into effect?

The new RICS Japanese Knotweed Guidance Paper is effective from 23 March 2022. It will help surveyors take a more optimistic approach when advising lenders, property owners and homebuyers about the potential impact of Japanese Knotweed, with emphasis placed on management and control rather than eradication. It should make it easier for buyers to get a mortgage on a property that is only mildly affected by Japanese Knotweed and give sellers – and lenders – more clarity on the appropriate action to take to manage the issue and reduce their risk.

When it comes to buying a house, if you’re worried about Japanese Knotweed at the property you’re interested in, and whether it will affect its value, GB Home Surveys can help. Our Level Two and Level Three Home Surveys will continue to follow RICS’ latest guidance. This ensures we can provide an objective and holistic assessment and overview of the risks posed by Japanese Knotweed to help you make a balanced and informed decision.

We’re an independent, RICS regulated chartered surveyors and have provided trusted services for almost 30 years. Our surveyors are all RICS members and RICS registered valuers who undergo regular training and personal development to keep up with the latest trends, issues and best practices in the residential property market.

Our team has vast experience in identifying potential Japanese Knotweed issues, recognising the problems they can cause and how they can be rectified. For a free initial consultation and a no-obligation quote, give our friendly team a call today to discuss your requirements.

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