Homeowner sues surveyor for failing to spot Japanese knotweed

A chartered surveyor who failed to identify Japanese knotweed growing in a garden during a residential property survey has been successfully sued by the homeowner.

By Joanne Atkin in Legal news, Surveying21st May 2019

Specialists in the removal of Japanese knotweed, say that the case strongly reinforces the legal precedent that surveyors must fulfil their duty of care by identifying the invasive plant. If they fail to do so, they could be sued for negligence.

Paul Ryb commissioned a chartered surveyor to carry out a Level Three RICS Building Survey of a ground floor flat in Highgate, North London. This is the most comprehensive survey available which provides an “in-depth analysis of the property’s condition”, including “a visual inspection of the grounds”.

The surveyor found the property to be in excellent condition with very few defects and recommended that the sale proceed.

The following year, a gardener discovered Japanese knotweed growing in the garden of the property. A removal firm was instructed to carry out a Japanese knotweed survey, during which it found knotweed to be visibly present in three locations.

The maturity of the plant proved that it had been there for more than three years and would have been in leaf and flowering, therefore easily identifiable, in early September when the survey took place.