Does my home insurance cover Japanese knotweed?

It’s the plant scourge of the suburban world… Most of us have heard of Japanese knotweed and its infamous reputation. But few of us really understand the destruction and damage it can cause to your house. And who among us even knows what it looks like?

If you own a property, it's important to make sure you find out if your home insurance covers damage caused by this non-native weed.

It’s the plant scourge of the suburban world… Most of us have heard of Japanese knotweed and its infamous reputation. But few of us really understand the destruction and damage it can cause to your house. And who among us even knows what it looks like?

If you own a property, it's important to make sure you find out if your home insurance covers damage caused by this non-native weed.

Kate Hughes
Insurance expert
5
minute read
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Last Updated 17 MARCH 2022

What is Japanese knotweed?

Japanese knotweed was first introduced to Britain back in 1825 as an ornamental plant. Little did they know… The plant soon started to take over gardens and proved almost untameable - this stuff can grow up to 10cm every day. 

Japanese knotweed can grow to over two metres high, has roots that can spread seven metres in all directions and can even break through tarmac. You don’t want to underestimate this plant.

What do I do if I find Japanese knotweed?

The sensible thing to do if you have Japanese knotweed is to control it as well as you can. The most important thing is to take action straight away.

It’s always safest to get a professional in – doing it yourself might be cost-effective in the short term but if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could end up inadvertently spreading it.

Japanese knotweed seeds aren’t fertile in the UK so the plant spreads through its roots. That means even a tiny bit of it left in the soil can sprout new shoots – so it’s safest to be cautious.

Can I get in trouble if I have Japanese knotweed in my garden?

It’s not illegal to have Japanese knotweed in your garden, but you have to keep it under control – in a careful and considered way. Even when you think you've got rid of it, don’t relax. It can come back with a vengeance as it can regrow from just a tiny part of root that's been left behind in the soil.

Outside of your own boundaries, it’s a completely different matter though. Anyone found spreading Japanese knotweed into the wild could be fined up to £5,000 or imprisoned for up to two years – so it’s a serious business. You could also be served a community protection notice for causing a nuisance if you allow Japanese knotweed to grow into anyone else’s property.

Do I need to inform my insurance provider that I have Japanese knotweed?

That’s a tricky one. You’re not obliged to tell your home insurance provider about the presence of Japanese knotweed on your property, unless they specifically ask you about it. If they do ask if you know of any knotweed on the property, you must be honest and tell them.

Will having Japanese knotweed affect my premiums?

No. Having Japanese knotweed shouldn't affect your home insurance premiums. But that’s only because your policy probably won’t cover removal of the plant or damage caused by it. As stated above, if your provider asks if you have the plant on your property, you will need to tell them.

Can Japanese knotweed cause property damage?

Yes. This is the crux of the whole problem.

Japanese knotweed has the ability to cause damage to property and homes as it can grow through materials as hard and dense as tarmac.

 

The good news is that in January 2022, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) declared that the plant posed little to no threat to structurally sound properties. RICS has now abolished the rules around declaring Japanese knotweed within a seven-metre radius that had caused problems for home sellers and mortgage holders.

But the bad news is that it can still exploit any structural weaknesses in a property, affecting drains or fragile walls, for example. The worst cases can even cause subsidence.

Will my insurance provider pay for treatment of Japanese knotweed?

Most home insurance policies don't cover the cost of any treatment or removal of the fast-growing plant, so you'll need to sort this out yourself – and it's probably best to hire a professional.

Am I covered for damage caused by Japanese knotweed?

Probably not. In most cases it’s unlikely that a claim for damage caused by Japanese knotweed would be covered under a home insurance policy. Most policies won't cover you for damage that happens gradually over time.

So, if you know you have Japanese knotweed and don't take immediate action, an insurance provider could say that any damage caused is due to your own negligence and failure to act.

But what if I hired a professional to get rid of it and it still came back?

That’s between you and the service provider. If you’ve been promised the plant will be removed without resurfacing, then you should call the company who did the eradication and ask them to revisit your house.

Can I be held responsible if it spreads to neighbours?

It’s a risk. If you have Japanese knotweed, don’t keep it under control and it spreads into neighbouring gardens, then you could be held responsible for any damage it causes. 

Your neighbours might seek compensation to cover the cost of damage caused by the weed that spread from your property. If you have legal assistance cover as part of your home insurance, you may be able to get legal advice or help through your insurance provider.

Will my insurance cover legal expenses if my neighbour takes action?

Your home insurance may cover you for legal costs if your policy includes legal assistance in the event of a legal case being taken against you.

You can choose legal expenses insurance as an add-on to your home insurance. Make sure you read the terms and conditions of your legal assistance contract carefully and discuss them with your provider before instructing a lawyer – because legal costs can rack up fast.

If I'm concerned about Japanese knotweed, what insurance do I need?

You know what we’re going to say to this one. Whether you have Japanese knotweed or not, it’s imperative to read the small print of your home insurance policy so that you fully understand what is and isn’t covered.

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