Blog > Equity release and Japanese knotweed

Equity release and Japanese knotweed

japanese knotweed

By Richard Groom • 15th May 2023 • 5 min read

Can you get equity release if your property has Japanese knotweed?

Japanese knotweed is an especially invasive weed that can cause structural damage to properties. As a result, an affected property may not be eligible for equity release – but that isn’t always the case.

Repaying an equity release provider typically involves your home being sold when the plan ends. That’s why providers will look at anything that could affect the future value or saleability of your home when considering an equity release application. That can include the presence of Japanese knotweed.

In this guide to Japanese knotweed and equity release, we’ll be taking a look at the following:

We hope this article gives you a better understanding of Japanese knotweed and equity release. We can of course help you find out more about your own situation and eligibility for equity release. Please call us on 0808 178 3055 or request a call back at a time that suits you. We will be happy to arrange a no-obligation appointment with one of our selected equity release advisers.

How does equity release work?

If you are a homeowner aged 55+ you may be able to unlock tax-free cash from your home with an equity release plan. A lifetime mortgage is the most popular type, involving a loan that doesn’t have to be paid while you continue to live in your property. Instead of monthly repayments, the loan and interest are paid back through the sale of the home when you pass away or move into long-term care.

How much you can release will depend on factors including your age and your property’s value. Find out what’s possible for you: get a free quote or talk to one of our friendly consultants by calling 0808 178 3055 or request a call back.

What is Japanese knotweed?

Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) was originally brought to the UK in the 19th Century as an ornamental plant. Unfortunately, it has proven to be very invasive and very difficult to eradicate, so infestation has become a real problem. This Japanese knotweed location heatmap shows the extent it has spread across the UK.

In fact, it has become such a serious problem, it is an offence to cause Japanese knotweed to grow in the wild under Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Although it dies back to ground level in winter, Japanese knotweed has its rhizomes up to several metres deep underground and grows back quickly. By early summer, its clumps of bamboo-like stems can grow to over 2 metres. 

Japanese knotweed is a serious problem for gardeners and homeowners. It not only suppresses other plant growth, but it can also cause structural damage to properties, and to drainage and sewage systems. 

It isn’t illegal to have Japanese knotweed in your garden. However, the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 states that you should aim to control it so that it doesn’t become a problem in your neighbourhood. 

But even though its presence is not illegal, you may understandably wish to control its spread, or eradicate it altogether from your property. As we will discuss below, this includes if you are considering applying for equity release.

Identifying Japanese knotweed

In spring, Japanese knotweed shoots are a red/purple colour, growing quickly to look like brown bamboo canes. These have purple flecks and produce branches from nodes along their length. The leaves are heart-shaped and approximately 14cm in length. In late summer, the plant will produce tassels of small cream-coloured flowers.

According to the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society), people often confuse Japanese knotweed with other plants including Russian vine, Himalayan honeysuckle and red dragon. There are also some species in the same family as Japanese knotweed that are not as invasive. The RHS provides an identification service to its members. You can also get information on identification on the Japanese knotweed page.

Can you control or remove Japanese knotweed?

You may be able to use weedkiller to control or even remove a small clump of Japanese knotweed in a localised area. Strimming or mowing is not usually recommended as this can cause the plant to spread further. Trying to dig the plant up is also likely to prove ineffective.

Perhaps the best course of action is to ask a specialist professional company to take care of the problem for you. The Property Care Association’s Invasive Weed Control Group has a register of contractors that you may find useful.

Depending on the extent of the infestation, eradication could take a couple of years. However, professional contractors are likely to be much more effective than any measures you are able to try. Also, they will be able to provide a guarantee that could be vital when making an equity release application.

Specialist contractors will also be able to dispose of what they remove in the right way at a licenced waste site. This is important, because Japanese knotweed is classed as a ‘controlled waste’ and therefore presents problems to homeowners wishing to dispose of it themselves. You should NEVER place Japanese knotweed in your household waste or green waste bins, nor include it in garden waste taken to your local council recycling centre.

Why do lenders sometimes refuse applications on properties with Japanese knotweed?

Japanese knotweed can seriously affect a property’s condition by damaging its walls or foundations. It can also damage drainage and sewage pipes.  As a result, it can affect the saleability and value of a property. 

When a house is sold, the seller is responsible for checking the garden for Japanese knotweed and confirming whether it is present. If it is, the seller must prove to the buyer that a management plan for its eradication from a professional company is in place.

Equity release providers are therefore reluctant or unable to lend against properties with an infestation: equity release and Japanese knotweed isn’t a great combination!

Providers are always taking a risk when lending money to their customers. They will typically only recoup the money they lend when they sell your property. They don’t have the benefit of receiving their money back through regular monthly payments, as is the case with most traditional mortgages.

Providers will want to be as certain as possible that the property will be saleable at the end of your plan. They will also want to ensure its value will cover the loan itself, and any interest that has accumulated on the loan. 

Japanese knotweed can therefore be one of several factors that could affect your property’s eligibility for equity release. Other issues include whether it is of standard or non-standard construction, whether it is a listed building, its condition and its location. You can read more in our extensive guide: Why are some properties not eligible for equity release?

What are the criteria for Japanese knotweed and equity release eligibility?

Equity release providers will all have criteria for properties affected by Japanese knotweed. They will look carefully at what the surveyor or valuer says in their report and make a decision accordingly.

Equity release providers may take several factors into account when making a decision, for example:

  • How extensive is the presence of Japanese knotweed?
  • What is the proximity of the weed to property itself?
  • Has it been classified into a management category A, B, C or D?
  • Have there been any attempts to remove it?
  • If removal has been done, was it undertaken by a suitably qualified contractor?
  • Did the contractor provide a guarantee for their work?

Providers each tend to have their own criteria for Japanese knotweed and whether they will accept affected properties for equity release. Some will simply refuse any property where the weed is present, whereas others will consider each case individually.

Pure Retirement is one provider that considers properties with evidence of Japanese knotweed for some of its equity release products. On its Sovereign range, for example, properties may be acceptable if the knotweed is more than seven metres from the property, subject to valuation and surveyor comments.

Find out of your property meets equity release criteria

Even if your property’s land includes Japanese knotweed, it may still be acceptable under equity release property eligibility criteria. With multiple equity release providers each having their own criteria and attitudes to Japanese knotweed, you’ve nothing to lose by making an enquiry. 

Our selected advisers would be happy to help you with questions about equity release and Japanese knotweed. They understand the equity release market and leading providers’ criteria. To arrange a no-obligation appointment, please call 0808 178 3055, or request a call back at a time that suits you. 

About Richard Groom. A writer with 20+ years’ experience across several sectors including financial services, Richard has a passion for writing clear and simple content on even the most complex of subjects. In his spare time, Richard loves exploring the hills and mountains of the UK on long walks with his faithful cocker spaniel. Follow Richard on LinkedIn

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