Network Rail Held Liable on Spread of Knotweed

network rail japanese knoweed court actionNetwork Rail have been held liable in a legal case bought to court for the loss of value of two properties that boarder Network Rail land that is infested with Japanese Knoweed.

In this legal case two claimants that owned a semi-detached bungalows that the rear walls abutted Network Rail embankment and footpath that has been infested with knotweed for at least 50 years brought their case to the County Court under private nuisance and arguing the following points:

  1. Encroachment – Both the claimants argued that the Japanese knotweed roots had spread onto their land and not only to the building foundations but also under the bungalows themselves. They alleged no proof of damage was necessary in order to meet encroachment grounds. The court followed the principles set out in Delaware Mansions v Westminster City Council 2001 and concluded that as no visible damage to the foundations or the bungalows was identified, the grounds for encroachment were not met.
  2. Interference of quiet enjoyment/loss of amenity – The claimants alleged the presence of the knotweed interfered with their quiet enjoyment or amenity value of their properties. The court recognised that the amenity value of a property included the ability to dispose of it at market value.
The County Court considered the position of current mortgage lenders who refuse to provide or granted limited mortgages if Japanese Knotweed if found within seven metres of a property boundary. This was sufficient to demonstrate the loss in value of each property. Whilst in some cases involving a treatment-backed guarantee, a loan could be obtained, there remained residual diminution in value and this would affect the property’s market value.

In this case the court concluded that there had been constructive knowledge of the Japanese knotweed on Network Rail land since at least 2012 and that is had not been treated or controlled adequately by Network Rail.

Network Rail was ordered to pay damages to the claimants to cover a treatment package for the Japanese knotweed and for the residual loss in the value of the properties. This case will be of great interest of property owners that have land boardering Network Rail land where Japanese knotweed may be present, as its mere presence could result in substantial damages being awarded to the owners of adjoining third party properties.

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