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Does my home insurance cover Japanese knotweed?

Does my home insurance cover Japanese knotweed?

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. 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.

Chris King
From the Home team
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Posted 14 JANUARY 2020

What is Japanese knotweed?

Japanese knotweed was first introduced to Britain back in 1825 as an ornamental plant. However, the plant soon started to take over gardens and proved almost untameable – with an ability to grow up to 20cm 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.

So, what do I do if I find Japanese knotweed?

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

When it comes to keeping the plant at bay, 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 – and even a tiny bit of it 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, 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. 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?

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 ask you if you know of any knotweed on the property, you must be honest and tell them.

Will having Japanese knotweed affect my premiums?

Having Japanese knotweed shouldn't affect your home insurance premiums, because in most cases your policy won’t cover removal of the plant, or damage caused by it, anyway. As described above, if your provider asks if you have the plant on your property, tell them, but they probably won't.

Can Japanese knotweed cause property damage?

Yes, Japanese knotweed has the ability to cause damage to property and homes as it can grow through materials as hard and dense as tarmac. It can exploit any structural weaknesses in a property, affecting drains or fragile walls etc. and in the worst cases can even cause subsidence.

The Crop Protection Association carried out a survey in 2017 that found that out of those who found Japanese knotweed on their property, 60% say it had caused damage – so it's worth being prepared and proactive.

Also, a study by CABI (the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International) in 2014 found that Japanese knotweed grows vigorously at a rate of up to a metre a month, including through tarmac, concrete and drains, causing damage to roads and buildings costing around £166 million to remove each year.

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 as mentioned it's probably safest to hire a professional.

Am I covered for damage caused by Japanese knotweed?

Unfortunately, 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 a period of 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?

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 re-visit your house.

Can I be held responsible if it spreads to neighbours?

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.

In 2018, a homeowner in Wales was awarded £15,000 in damages when Japanese knotweed on National Rail land encroached on his property.

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?

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. Look for a suitable policy for you and your home? Compare home insurance in minutes to see if you can save.

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