Japanese Knotweed is prevalent in many areas of the UK. What should you do if you discover Japanese Knotweed on your property? How do you make sure a property you are buying isn’t affected?  Here are some helpful pointers to make sure you are clear on how to handle this inconvenient invader.

What is Japanese Knotweed and why is it such a problem?

When Victorian engineers were designing our railways, they imported Japanese Knotweed into Britain to hide, or possibly even stabilise, railway embankments. Japanese Knotweed is typically known for colonising volcanoes in Japan and is now known to be a significant problem across the country.

It spreads quickly and can grow up to 10cm a day between April and October with the roots extending up to three metres deep and up to seven metres laterally.  It is strong enough to crack tarmac, block drains, undermine foundations and invade homes. Its presence can be enough to cut a property’s value by up to 20% or prevent a mortgage lender approving a loan. It is estimated to be the cause of circa £170 million of home repairs every year and the government estimates that the costs of eradicating it across the UK would be £2.6 billion.

How do I identify Japanese Knotweed?

Mature Japanese Knotweed canes can be identified by their distinctive purple speckle and stand as high as three metres tall. This is when they are fully grown by early summer. Towards the end of summer clusters of small white flowers appear, which are loved by insects for their nectar. In Autumn, the leaves wither and fall off and the canes die and go brown. The rhizome is the part of the plant that is submerged under the soil. It has a dark brown bark and under this external layer, is orange or yellow.

How close is it to me?

Five years ago, the Environment Agency commissioned a new app to track Japanese Knotweed, using the crowd-sourcing principle. More than 20,000 people have now downloaded it, and their data has pinpointed over 6,000 knotweed locations. View the full map at http://www.planttracker.org.uk/map/knotweed where you can zoom into your area. So far, the results show a particular concentration in South Wales, Midlands, London, Scotland’s central belt and Cornwall – where the plant was also introduced by Victorians into ornamental gardens.

What should I do if I have Japanese Knotweed on my property?

Japanese Knotweed is extremely difficult to treat because the roots or rhizomes spread rapidly underground and can regenerate from tiny amounts of material. There are strict regulations which control the its disposal. The Knotweed must be treated at the root and by cutting it down.

Digging it out of the ground can just spread it terribly,” warns Stephen Hodgson, the chief executive of the Property Care Association (PCA).”If you’ve got it in your garden, either leave it alone, or treat it properly.

The advice is as follows:

  • Do not try to dig it up: Tiny root fragments can regenerate into another plant
  • If you cut down the branches, dispose of them on-site. Compost separately, preferably on plastic sheets
  • Do not take it to your local council dump. It needs specialist waste management
  • Do not dispose of it in the countryside. This is against the law
  • Do not spread the soil – earth within seven horizontal metres of a plant can be contaminated
  • Take advice from the Invasive Non-Native Specialists Association (INNSA) or the Property Care Association (PCA) on local removal contractors. Many treatments don’t work

In an experiment being conducted in South Wales, thousands of plant lice were released in the summer of 2016, in the hopes that they would help destroy some of the knotweed along river banks. Scientists hope the insects, brought from Japan will stunt the super weed, allowing native species to flourish. However, it is still recommended to seek professional advice on how to eradicate it to ensure that the plant does not get out of control or spread to adjoining properties. Professional knotweed treatment involves injecting the plant with industrial-strength weed killer -Glyphosate.

David Layland, the joint managing director of Japanese Knotweed Control, based in Stockport, says it is the only thing that works. “Once we inject into it, it transfers into the root system pretty quickly, and then it binds with the roots. Over time, it rots away into the subsoil.”

Professional treatment is costly, starting at about £2,500, and going upwards to £30,000 for a major infestation.

Am I liable for knotweed spreading to adjoining properties?

You must deal with Japanese Knotweed straight away.  If you fail to do so, then you could be faced with a substantial claim from any adjoining landowner.  This claim could be not just for the costs of removing the knotweed from the adjoining property but also for the decrease in value of the adjoining property.

In the recent case of Smith v Line where knotweed was found by the Smiths on property they had acquired from Ms Line. When they discovered the knotweed, the Smiths acted to remove the knotweed from their land and, having successfully eradicated it from their property, requested Ms Line to take action to prevent it spreading back onto their property as it was growing close to the boundary.  Ms Line refused, and the judge granted an injunction requiring Ms Line to get a reputable contractor to treat the knotweed on her land and ordered her to pay the Smiths’ costs.

Similarly, in the case Williams v Network Rail, two homeowners in South Wales were awarded £15,000 to compensate them for knotweed which had spread into their gardens.

These cases highlight the possibility of further claims being made more frequently in the future.

What should I do if I am buying a property?

Where sellers of existing properties are aware that the property or garden is, or has been, affected by Japanese Knotweed, they must declare it on the property information form (known as a Form TA6) as part of the conveyancing process.  However, developers and builders are not obliged to complete this property information form and if you are buying from a developer or builder then you should make sure your solicitor requests specific enquiries are written to confirm both the current and the historic knotweed position. A buyer should always get a survey of the property carried out and should ensure that the survey includes the garden and, where possible, gardens of adjoining properties.

Can I get insurance against Japanese Knotweed?

Whilst most buildings insurers don’t ask about Japanese Knotweed, they may not cover any treatment so check your buildings insurance policy carefully to see if it is covered.  A mortgage lender may also not be willing to lend if the buildings insurance policy won’t cover knotweed.

Indemnity insurance cover can be taken out to provide protection for buyers and mortgage lenders if Japanese Knotweed is discovered.  This will generally only be available if no knotweed has been discovered on your property or if it has been successfully treated in the past. This insurance could cover the cost of a survey report to confirm the presence of knotweed, the cost of treatment, repair of any damage caused and could also extend to defending any legal proceedings in the event of any third party being affected.

 

Who is eligible for a Help To Buy ISA?

Only first-time buyers can open a Help to Buy ISA.

How much can I deposit into a Help to Buy ISA per month?

The maximum you can deposit a month is £200, with a one-off the maximum initial deposit of £1,000.

When can I use the money in a Help To Buy ISA?

You can use the money toward the deposit fund or completion funds, but the bonus will not be claimed until completion.

Is there a maximum/minimum property purchase price required to claim the Help to Buy bonus?

There is no minimum amount required. However, if you are purchasing them for more than £250,000 outside of London you will not be able to claim the HTB bonus. The maximum you can be purchased for in London is £450,000 in order to claim the bonus.

What is the maximum/minimum required to have in my Help To Buy ISA so I can claim the bonus?

The maximum amount you can have in your Help to Buy  ISA in order to claim the government bonus is £12,000. The minimum you must have to qualify for the bonus is £1,600.

How is the bonus calculated?

The bonus is calculated on the total amount that you have saved in your Help to Buy ISA and the bonus will be 25% of the balance. For example, if Rob has £10,000 in his ISA, he will receive a bonus of £2,500. The maximum bonus you can receive is £3,000 and the minimum is £400.

How and when do I close my Help To Buy ISA?

You must close your Help to Buy ISA at least two weeks before you wish to use the funds & claim the bonus, this is so enough time is given to the ISA manager in order for them to transfer the money that’s in your Help to Buy ISA Account and provide you with a closing statement (which can take a few days and is sent in the post usually).

Step 1 – Ask for your ISA to be closed

Step 2 – Request a closing statement

Step 3 – Transfer the money to your normal account

Step 4 – Provide your conveyancer with the closing statement immediately upon receipt

How and who claims the bonus on my behalf?

The solicitor/conveyancer you have instructed to act for you in respect of your purchase will claim the bonus on your behalf and is usually sent to your solicitor/conveyancer on completion. You will need to provide your solicitor/conveyancer with the closing statement as soon as possible so they can apply for the bonus using the online portal, usually a bonus is claimed 7 days prior to completion.

Your conveyancer/solicitor will apply for the bonus via the Help to Buy online portal. They will then receive a notification to let them know the bonus has been approved. This will be paid into your solicitors/conveyancer’s client account on the date they have selected (this is often the day before completion).

What can I use the government bonus towards?

This can be used towards the purchase price of the property you are buying.

 

We are delighted to announce that we have achieved national recognition winning the Modern Law Awards for ‘National Conveyancing Firm of the Year’.

This award win is a testament to the incredible work and great talent we have as a firm. We are continuously striving to deliver the best conveyancing service and to be at the forefront of change within the industry. We are extremely committed to the service and experience our clients and referrers receive when instructing The Law Practice UK Ltd which shows in our fantastic Google and Facebook reviews across our all our offices – Walsall, Great Barr, Birmingham, Stratford Upon Avon and London. Clients and referrers continually contact The Law Practice UK Ltd through recommendations and we act for them in all legal capacities.

It is an honour to win this award and we are incredibly proud. We thank all our valued clients as without you we would not be here or have achieved this award.

Something as simple as a pair of shoes can make a BIG difference in the life of a child living in poverty. A pair of shoes helps keep a child healthy, in school, and in a position to succeed. Over 1.5 billion people suffer from soil-transmitted diseases worldwide. Without shoes, children are especially vulnerable to soil-transmitted diseases and parasites that can cause illness and even death. 

Children who become unwell miss school, can’t help their families and suffer needlessly. And since children’s feet grow so quickly, they often outgrow donated shoes within a year, leaving them once again exposed to illness and disease. The Shoe That Grows has 5x the impact of ordinary shoes because it expands 5 sizes and lasts for years.

Zainab Hafeez, who is a Conveyancing Executive working in our New Build Team in Walsall, was inspired by The Shoe That Grows charity and sought to raise money for a school in Nairobi she has been sponsoring since February 2017. Zainab travelled to Tanzania and climbed Kilimanjaro!

 

On 14th June 2018 Zainab set off on her climb and on 20th June 2018 at 7:06 am she reached Uhuru Peak Mount Kilimanjaro. Zainab said “I never imagined I would swap my stilettos and handbag with walking boots and a rucksack! Battling 4 days of climbing walking and facing -15degrees and winds I succeeded! I wish to thank you all for your donations so far and would appreciate your support in helping me reach my target so that the children can have their shoes delivered as soon as possible.”

We are tremendously proud of what Zainab has achieved. She has raised £606 so far with the figure continuing to grow. That is the equivalent 55 pairs of children’s shoes. 55 children who will now have shoes for the coming years allowing them to focus on the important things in life – education, family and friendships.

So far 175,638 shoes have been given to children in 97 countries since 2007. If you, like us, are left inspired by Zainab and The Shoe That Grows charity and would like to make a donation, Zainab’s just giving page is linked below:https://fundraise.becauseinternational.org/fundraiser/1388297

Further information about The Shoe That Grows can be found on their website:
https://theshoethatgrows.org/

 

By now most landlord and letting agents should be aware of the ‘prescribed form’ of Section 21 Notices –which was first introduced by the Deregulation Act 2015. The new prescribed form must be used where an assured shorthold tenancy was granted on or after 1 October 2015 in England. In order to serve a valid notice, there must also be compliance with the prescribed requirement (discussed in more detail at https://www.lplawfirm.com/gas-certificate-rights/).

We still receive a large number of enquiries from landlords who have served notice only to realise several months down the line that they have done so incorrectly and must start the whole process again. We would always advise that any notice served on a tenant should be professionally prepared from a reputable source.

The law in this area continues to evolve and from 1 October 2018, some of the requirements of the Deregulation Act will apply to all assured shorthold tenancies in England even those granted before 1 October 2015;

  • The ‘retaliatory eviction’ provisions will apply to all assured shorthold tenancies in England from 1 October 2018
  • Removal of requirement to expire notice at the end of a period
  • Time limits when section 21 can be served – A section 21 notice cannot be served within the first 4 months and must be used within 6 months of service
  • All Section 21 notices should be in the prescribed form

For further information, guidance or advice please contact Ashley Byrne of The Law Practice Landlord and Tenant team on 0121 778 2371 or email ashley.byrne@lplawfirm.com


The purpose of this blog is to provide information and discussion. Nothing on this blog should be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice from a qualified solicitor regarding any actual legal issue or dispute. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice or perceived as creating a solicitor-client relationship. Please note that we cannot give advice on individual’s situations or problems on this blog.

There is a multitude of benefits to buying a New Build home. Buying into such developments can be opting into a lifestyle rather than just purchasing a home, with fitness suites, shopping amenities and communal spaces becoming common features of new build developments. The developers will do solid research on an area and look at proximity to local schools and transport links.

When buying a New Build home, ensure you research the developer that you are purchasing from and ask to see the developer’s portfolio of work. Whether it is a well-known developer or a private developer, it is essential that they have a proven track record and you can see their work stands the test of time. New Build properties are generally built to the highest specifications using high-quality, new materials, which mean that they are more energy efficient, cheaper to maintain and have the latest safety and security measures in place. A 10-year National House Building Council Warranty (NHBC) comes with most new homes and acts as a guarantee.

Construction of the property you plan to purchase may not have started and you may commit to the purchase based on the viewing of a show home. This is what’s known as buying ‘off-plan’. Buying off-plan also gives buyers the opportunity to choose finishes throughout the property so that it is bespoke to the buyer’s personal taste – from flooring to tiles, to worktops and wardrobes. Investors often buy New Build homes off plan as this allows them to focus on generating capital growth without concerning themselves with maintenance costs. New Build homes are often a preferred choice for tenants who are looking for ease, convenience and the great locations that New Build homes typically offer.

There are Help to Buy schemes offered by the government, all aimed at helping buyers with the cost of securing and maintaining a New Build home. Naturally, New Build homes are an attractive option for first-time buyers because of the government Help to Buy schemes available and the convenience of moving into a brand-new property which requires no renovation – something which can be very costly.

Things initially move quickly in the world of New Build conveyancing. When you decide that you are ready to make an offer on a prospective property, the developer will require a reservation fee before accepting. Often, this is non-returnable. You should also make sure you have an agreement in principle from the mortgage company before committing to paying the reservation fee. Once this fee has been paid you will have a limited amount of time to exchange contracts – usually around 4 weeks. You should, therefore, have researched experienced New Build conveyancers and be prepared to instruct them as soon as the reservation fee has been paid. Developers can be strict when it comes to deadlines for the exchange of contracts, particularly if there is a lot of interest in the property. If these aren’t met, then you are at risk of losing your would-be home and your reservation deposit. The developers’ conveyancers will give your conveyancing lawyers notice of when the property is ready. Completion must then happen within a specified period.

Due to the strict deadlines and complexities of New Build conveyancing, it’s important that you choose a solicitor who has considerable experience in this field. Our team of expert conveyancing solicitors have decades of collective experience in this specialist area and are committed to delivering a smooth and stress-free service.


If you would like to discuss New Build conveyancing in further detail, call us on 0121 778 2371 to speak with a member of the team. Further, advice can also be found on our dedicated new build conveyancing team page.

WHAT IS A PROPERTY SURVEY?

Every year, nearly a million people buy a property to live in or to rent out to tenants. Money spent on a survey could save you thousands by providing ammunition for negotiating a price reduction – or by making you think twice about buying at all.

Depending on which level of survey you choose, the surveyor may advise on:

  • Checking the condition of your property
  • Current or future minor and major repairs and costs
  • Identifying how much it would cost to re-build the property for insurance purposes
  • Giving an independent view on the property’s value
  • Advising of any further checks the property will require

DIFFERENT TYPES OF PROPERTY SURVEY

There are 5 different levels and types of surveys to consider when buying a home. Some are unavoidable, such as mortgage valuations. Others, although not a legal requirement, are worth considering to verify the condition and safety of the property.

  1. Mortgage valuation

Buyers often consider a mortgage valuation as the equivalent to a survey but it isn’t. The sole aim of the mortgage valuation is to satisfy the lender that your desired property is worth the price you’re paying – or at least the amount it’s lending, before they approve your mortgage. A mortgage valuation is carried out by a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

  1. Snagging surveys

If you are buying a new-build, it should have passed building regulation inspections and have a certificate from an insurance company such as Zurich or the National House Building Council. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t need checking, though. A snagging survey looks for mistakes made by building contractors, such as poorly painted walls, missing screws on door hinges and wonky switches. The benefit of this survey is that by ensuring on exchange that completion is subject to fixing any problems highlighted in a snagging survey, the developer would need to put these things right to get their money.

The Law Practice have a dedicated New Build  Conveyancing department based in Walsall, West Midlands. If you require any further information on the process of buying a new build property, please visit our new build page. *insert new build page link*

  1. Home condition report

This survey is for anyone buying a property that appears to be in ‘good condition’ but would still benefit from being checked for potential problems you may not see, such as hidden damp, woodworm or structural movement. The report will help cost likely future repairs.

  1. Homebuyers report

A survey of this nature is typically for properties that have been built since the Victorian age. The report will mirror the Home Condition Report and include advice and possibly an independent valuation of the property. If the value of the property suggested is less than you have offered, don’t panic; it doesn’t mean you have to pull out of the sale. Talk to the surveyor about how easy and expensive it will be to fix any problems. Use this information to negotiate the price down. Your conveyancer and surveyor will be experienced with these negotiations, so use them to help you.

  1. Building survey

This survey is vital for older character properties and properties of ‘non-standard’ construction such as timber. It’s also wise to have this survey if you are planning major works such as a loft conversion or extension. A building survey looks in great detail at the condition and any defects the property may have and potential to extend. If agreed, the surveyor would also give detailed costings of rectifying problems.

THINGS YOU CAN LOOK OUT FOR;

There are a few things you can look out for and draw to your surveyor’s attention.

If you are looking to purchase a property, in or around Birmingham, Walsall, Coventry, Stratford Upon Avon, London, Hertfordshire, contact our experienced Conveyancing Departments for a no obligation chat.

0121 778 2371 – Walsall

0121 358 7001 – Great Barr Birmingham

0207 167 4899 – London

01789 552 872 – Stratford Upon Avon

Or email info@lplawfirm.com

 

What It Means To You


After 4 years of preparation and debate the GDPR was finally approved by the EU Parliament on 14 April 2016. On 25th May 2018, the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDRP) will come into force. The GDPR replaces the existing Data Protection Act 1998 governing how data is managed. It applies to all businesses in the European Union (EU). The GDPR will form part of UK law following the countries withdrawal from the EU. The GDPR was designed to harmonize data privacy laws across Europe because of developments in internet and cloud technologies. There are now so many ways to collect and store personal data that new measures are required to ensure that personal data is kept safe and is only kept for legitimate purposes.

What Constitutes Personal Data?


Any information related to a natural person or ‘Data Subject’, that can be used to directly or indirectly identify the person. It can be anything from a name, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, medical information, or a computer IP address.

GDPR Timeline Of Events


Penalties For Non-Compliance


GDPR places a strong emphasis on accountability and transparency, holding businesses accountable for safeguarding the collection, usage and storage of client personal data. Companies that use 3rd party software such as payroll or accounts packages will need to ensure these systems are GDPR compliant. Businesses are required to identify a lawful basis for processing client personal data fairly, accurately and be kept in a form which permits the identification of data subjects for no longer than is necessary. It is advised that businesses ensure that they have detailed procedures in place to detect, report and investigate a personal data breach. Failure to prevent a data breach can result in fines up to 4% of the total annual worldwide revenue or €20 Million. There is a tiered approach to fines e.g. a company can be fined 2% for not having their records in order, not notifying the supervising authority and data subject about a breach or not conducting impact assessment. It is important to note that these rules apply to both controllers and processors — meaning ‘clouds’ will not be exempt from GDPR enforcement.


TLP has outsourced a professional GDPR audit company to make sure our client have peace of mind that their data is secure. Further guidance in relation to complying with the GDPR requirements can be found on the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) website – https://ico.org.uk/

Poppi Herald talks about her work and explains what it is like to be an apprentice Legal Assistant with The Law Practice (UK) Ltd.

What made you choose an apprenticeship and what is your current role?

For years I have known law is my destined career. I find the subject so fascinating yet so vast – there are so many different types of sectors within law. This is one of the factors which initially sparked my interest, you can never be bored as there will always be something new to investigate. So, knowing that there is an apprenticeship to get your foot in the door was amazing to me! It makes me so happy knowing that TLP have taken a chance on me. At current, I assist in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Civil Litigation which covers a lot of different things! 

What’s your typical day like?

My typical day is corresponding with clients, other solicitors etc. I work alongside a senior solicitor who is great at teaching me about the profession. It is a constant learning curve for me!

What is your proudest achievement since joining The Law Practice (UK) Ltd?

Probably finding out that The Law Practice (UK) Ltd wanted to take me on – considering how much I wanted my job! As previously said, I just felt so lucky that there was a firm out there that wanted to give me this opportunity. I am still immensely grateful for the opportunity.

What are the key things you’ve learned since joining?

Probably organisation… I have never been a non-organised person but being at The Law Practice (UK) Ltd has advanced these skills for me – and timekeeping!

Where do you see your career in five years?

Joining The Law Practice (UK) Ltd at an early age ensures I have many years ahead of me to be able to expand my knowledge and become my overall goal, a solicitor. So, in 5 years’ time I hope I will be getting at least a tiny bit closer to becoming one!

What’s your favourite thing about working for TLP?

My favourite thing about working where I do is that everybody is so helpful and on-hand with guidance and support. I am never made to feel that I am annoying anybody by asking as many questions as I do.

In your opinion, what makes law a career that young people should consider?

It is so interesting! No client or case is the same. There is such variation, it is not like a job you go to everyday and it will be the same – I think having different things to focus on is a real positive! And you can manage yourself, and your own time. I find the subject so fascinating yet so vast – there are so many different types of sectors within law. This is one of the factors which initially sparked my interest, you can never be bored as there will always be something new to investigate.

What advice would you give to a candidate interested in a legal apprenticeship?

For anybody considering a career within the industry I strongly advise to go for it! There is nothing to lose but SO much to gain. Lawyers/solicitors are always going to be needed and as previously stated, no case is ever the same.

Over half of the adult population do not have a Will in place leaving their final wishes in the hands of the Governments Intestacy Rules.

There are many cheap Will writing options available today in the form of Will writing kits and online versions but are these suffice in dealing with your wishes?

Some of the mistakes people make too often when writing their own final wishes are:

  • Forgetting to appoint executors to deal with the administration of their estate and make sure final wishes are carried out.
  • Not dealing with all of their assets. They make mention of the house/cars/jewellery etc and fail to mention other assets or financial policies.
  • Referring to specific assets which might change by the time they have died
  • Not getting the Will signed and witnessed properly. To be valid in the United Kingdom, the Will must be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses, who must both be present when the testator signs. The witnesses then sign in the testator’s presence.
  • Making amendments to the Will after it has been signed and witnessed.
  • Losing the Will.
  • Failing to write a Letter of Wishes.

Critically using a Solicitor means you will get the right advice based on questions the Solicitor will ask you.

This includes advice on Inheritance Tax, severing a tenancy, making sure family are looked after, making sure home or medical care is accounted for if necessary, funeral arrangements and much more.

Many people have complicated family arrangements now, second (or third) marriages, stepchildren and/or adopted children. Wills for these circumstances can take time to get right, and require skilled legal knowledge.

Spending more and having a qualified legal professional write your wishes can ultimately save much more financially down the line if the Will is contested.

If your car was broken you would take it to a mechanic to fix, if you had a leak, you would call out a plumber – professionals who know their trade.

For a Will – use a qualified Solicitor!

For a no-obligation chat about your circumstances, contact our Wills and Probate team today.

For further information about the importance of writing a will, visit our dedicated Wills and Probate page.