A recent County Court case highlights the importance of correctly completing the Property Information Form in respect of Japanese Knotweed.

Japanese Knotweed is an invasive plant which can cause extensive damage to property. It can take years to eradicate and often involves complicated and expensive treatment plans.

A Property Information Form is completed by the property seller and given to the buyer’s solicitor for review. The Property Information Form asks the seller to confirm “Is the property affected by Japanese Knotweed?” The options to answer this question are “Yes, No, or Not Known”.

It may seem that there isn’t much difference between answering “No” or “Not Known”. There is however an important distinction, which has been highlighted in a recent court case between the buyer and seller of a South-West London property.

The seller of the three-bed property had marked ‘No’ on his Property Information Form. The buyer (who had not instructed a surveyor to inspect the property prior to the completion of the purchase) later discovered Japanese Knotweed in the garden of the property.

The judge held that the seller made a misrepresentation by ticking ‘No’ and should have ticked ‘Yes’ or ‘Not Known’. The judge did not consider it relevant that the buyer did not conduct a survey.  As a result of the decision, the seller was ordered to pay £32,000 damages to the buyer as well as both sides’ legal fees.

By ticking ‘No’ the seller implied that he had actual knowledge of there being no Knotweed as opposed to not knowing for sure, particularly as there is the option to select ‘Not Known’.

If you have any doubts or questions when completing your Property Information Form it is always best to check with your lawyer. If you require advice on this topic or a property dispute in general, please do not hesitate to get in touch.