Japanese Knotweed is a very invasive plant spread across the UK, and it can be difficult to remove. The problem is that this plant also grows in many private gardens, which means many homeowners have Japanese knotweed growing on their property. Some people might think that owning Japanese knotweed doesn’t matter because they’re not doing anything wrong by having it in their garden, but what does this mean for their eligibility with equity release?
This article goes into depth about how much damage Japanese knotweed can do to your home and whether or not you should get rid of it before considering equity release options.
Let’s Discuss One Growing Problem; Japanese Knotweed
Japanese knotweed is a herbaceous perennial plant1 that originates in East Asia. It can grow up to 12 feet tall with an underground rhizome system that enables the plant to regenerate after being cut back, dug up, or burnt off.
The invasive2 weed spreads quickly and has been found all around Europe, where it grows on sites such as roadsides, riverbanks, near watercourses, and waste grounds. The weed thrives particularly well in temperate climates, including the United Kingdom and other countries like France, Belgium, and Ireland.
This overgrowth occurs most often next to houses or buildings in Japan due to their proximity to water. The weed is known to cause problems for homeowners looking into equity release options because it can affect eligibility as the root system of this plant may penetrate through foundations and demolish brickwork or concrete walls, affecting structural stability.
This means that if a homeowner has Japanese knotweed on their property, they could be less eligible for equity release due to its negative effects on the property’s condition.
Where Is Japanese Knotweed Situated in the UK?
Japanese knotweed is most often found in the United Kingdom, with England’s South West and Wales hotspots. It can be located around Glasgow, Edinburgh, or Dundee in Scotland, while Ireland has seen an infestation thrive on sites such as the River Shannon and the greater Dublin area.
In England, it’s mostly found in South West regions like Cornwall and Devon, while Wales has seen a large number of infestations around Swansea and Cardiff. Ireland’s hotspots are still concentrated on the west coast, with Mayo being most affected, followed by Galway County, but Kerry reports that Japanese knotweed can be spotted as well.
Wales’ hotspots are mostly around the Cardiff area and Swansea and in Aberystwyth, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Powys. They find themselves with a high number of infestations to warmer climates than Scotland or England.
Scotland is less affected by Japanese knotweed because it can only be found sporadically3 in Glasgow, Edinburgh, or Dundee, while Ireland has seen more infestation in Dublin City Centre (around Leopardstown), there have been reports of heavy clusters that were burnt off last year following discovery.
What Does Japanese Knotweed Look Like?
Japanese knotweed is a herbaceous plant4 with heart-shaped green leaves and white flowers in the early summer months. A key identifying feature of this invasive weed is its hollow, bamboo-like stems that can grow up to 12 feet tall and have been known to reach heights of 30 feet or more when left unchecked.
The flower heads on Japanese knotweed plants will be small spiky clusters that start as light purple before turning into pink then deep red towards autumn time. At the same time, the stalk remains erect throughout winter until it dies back again around April or May.
It’s worth noting that there are many different species with varying characteristics, including those that produce large black fruit from their stalks and others that contain wiry hairs.
How Can I Get Rid of Japanese Knotweed?
You can get rid of Japanese knotweed by cutting the root system and removing any visible plants. Burning, digging up, or using chemicals are also effective methods to do this but be aware that these options may affect nearby property if not done with care.
It’s important to note that you should never dispose of weed-infested soil in a compost heap because it will simply spread further into your garden while contaminating other growing plants, among them vegetables, fruit trees, and flowers too so make sure that weeds are removed completely before spreading them on the ground again.
If you want to get rid of this weed completely, then a good option is to use herbicides5 such as glyphosate, Gordon, and picloram which can all be purchased from garden centers in liquid form or paint-on cakes that should last for up to 12 months.
Alternatively, those looking for methods without chemicals can try an organic approach by using vinegar soaks (a bucket/sponge soaked in white distilled vinegar) or clove oil infusions. Still, these options will only kill off new growth and not target deep roots as other chemical-based solutions do.
You could also opt for manual removal, where you need to dig out small plants near your property’s foundation before extracting bigger ones with a fork and then applying a herbicide to the root system for extra protection.
What Problems Does Japanese Knotweed Cause?
Japanese knotweed is a major problem for homeowners in the UK. It affects residential and commercial properties, damaging foundations, ruining lawns and gardens, disrupting water supplies (it can interfere with drainage), getting into buildings via drains or cracks in external walls using its fast-growing underground shoots, and blocking gutters.
The weed thrives on disturbed soils, so it tends to grow along roadsides where there have been construction works, including widening schemes or other landscaping projects that disturb ground levels. In Scotland, Japanese knotweed has also appeared at sites where coal was previously mined.
The plant’s giant rhizomes are very difficult to control as they produce more weed year after year: even if it’s cut off from the main plant, the rhizome may continue to grow. Cutting away as much of the weed as possible is a prudent step, but there are no guaranteed methods for eradicating it.
How Can You Tell If Your House Is Affected?
If you live near an area where construction has been carried out recently, then the chances are that Japanese knotweed could be present. It’s also possible to identify the weed by sight: it has a distinctive, bamboo-like appearance and can grow up to four meters high if given the space (although, in most cases, it will only reach one meter).
Often an infestation of Japanese knotweed goes unnoticed until there is significant damage – for example, lawns becoming bald or plants dying off without obvious cause. You may encounter small patches where weeds have appeared on your property, but you won’t know whether this weed caused these at first glance.
The plant prefers damp conditions, so it often appears near water features such as patios and ponds, drains, or low ground alongside rivers. If you see some signs of this weed, it’s worth contacting a specialist landscaping company to confirm whether or not you have an infestation.
Containment measures involve wearing protective clothing, spraying the weed with glyphosate, and digging up as much of the plant as possible (remembering that there will be multiple rhizomes). The process can take months or even years, so homeowners need to act quickly to avoid expensive repairs and restoration work in the future.
Which Equity Release Lenders Accept Japanese Knotweed?
In the past, most equity release lenders have been willing to offer mortgages that cover Japanese knotweed-affected homes. However, some now refuse to do so because they are concerned about the weed’s ability to grow up walls and through gutters. In a worst-case scenario, it could enter into the house via these routes or interfere with drainage pipes which would cause serious structural damage over time.
This means that around 41% of equity release providers (including Santander) will not normally extend mortgage loans4 for properties affected by this invasive plant – although there is no definitive list available at present as each company has its terms and conditions when considering applications.
What Happens If You Leave Japanese Knotweed Alone?
If you cannot remove it, then there is a risk that this plant will start growing up walls: while its roots cannot penetrate brickwork, the soft mortar between bricks can be damaged by its rhizomes.
This will lead to problems such as the inability of guttering and pipes to drain water away from a house, leading ultimately to structural damage, which could result in expensive repairs or even full demolition if necessary.
How Much Does Japanese Knotweed Removal Cost?
The average cost for removal has been quoted at £1300-£1500 per 100 square meters, but homeowners should bear in mind that this is not an exact figure.
Several factors are involved, including how extensive the infestation is and whether it involves landscaping work (for example, digging up plants).
Will Japanese Knotweed Go Away on Its Own?
Japanese knotweed cannot be eradicated and it can seriously damage properties, so homeowners will need to take steps to contain the problem. It is important not to cover up any visible signs of the plant, which could reappear elsewhere on the property.
What Are My Chances of Selling a House That Has Japanese Knotweed?
As time passes and more lenders refuse to provide equity release for these properties, homeowners may find it difficult to sell their homes because they have significant damage caused by this fast-growing weed.
If you’re considering equity release, be aware of the risks involved. When it comes to Japanese knotweed, there are many ways that this invasive plant can impact your home’s value and eligibility for a loan or mortgage. To protect yourself from any unwanted surprises, make sure to consult with experts before making any decisions.