A property-owner has won costs and damages of £50,000 after a surveyor failed to spot Japanese knotweed growing in the garden of the ground floor flat he was buying.

Paul Ryb, who is one of the UK’s top visually impaired tennis players, bought the flat for £1.25m in 2014. Before exchanging contracts, he had instructed a chartered surveyor to undertake a comprehensive RICS level three survey. This provides an in-depth report of the property’s condition and a visual inspection of the grounds.

The survey report showed the flat to be in excellent condition with very few defects. Unfortunately, the following year Mr Ryb’s gardener found Japanese knotweed growing in the grounds.

Japanese knotweed is a highly invasive plant which is claimed to cause damage to property (see Brunel News, April 2019). Mr Ryb called in removal firm Environet UK, who found knotweed growing in three locations in the garden. They said it was a mature infestation which would have been clearly visible at the time the survey was undertaken.

Environet excavated and removed the knotweed at a cost of £10,000. Mr Ryb took his claim to court and was awarded costs and damages for reinstating the garden and diminution of the property’s value.

Paul Ryb said: “I bought the property in good faith following a building survey which gave it a clean bill of health. I am relieved to have finally won my case and I hope it gives hope to other homeowners who find themselves in a similar situation, that they may have a legal case for compensation.”

James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professions. “The further investigation of the threat represented by Japanese knotweed is very interesting, but clearly the legal position on its presence has not yet changed. As such surveyors can still face claims for negligence if they do not report its presence.” Reports on the cases have been published by PropertyWire, Today’s Conveyancer and Ham&High.

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