Seller loses £200,000 after buyer finds Japanese knotweed in garden

Japanese knotweed seen up close
(Image credit: Getty)

A furniture designer has successfully sued his home's previous owner for £200,000 after finding Japanese knotweed behind the garden shed.

Jonathan Downing purchased the property in Raynes Park, south west London, for £700,000 from chartered accountant Jeremy Henderson, 41, in August 2018.

But shortly after moving into the house, the 30-year-old found Japanese knotweed growing in the garden, near where he had hoped to build a workshop.

Buyer found Japanese knotweed behind garden shed

Mr Downing, who trained at the prestigious Chippendale International School of Furniture near Edinburgh in Scotland, discovered the knotweed behind a large St John’s wort bush by the shed as he was sprucing up the garden.

Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) was introduced to the UK during the Victorian era and gardener were attracted to its heart-shaped leaves and exotic flowers, but the plant grows aggressively and its extensive root system can cause damage to buildings and roads. 

Japanese knotweed removal is tricky and preventing its return can be an intensive and expensive job. You can read more about how to kill Japanese knotweed in our guide.

Mr Downing then sued for damages, claiming the former owner misrepresented whether there was knotweed at the property during the sale, the Telegraph reports.

Mr Henderson answered “no” to the question on the TA6 property information form asking if the property had been affected by knotweed. He claimed he “reasonably believed” he was correct at the time, adding that he could not have seen the knotweed because of the large bush.

Mr Henderson told the court he had a surveyor’s report when he moved in and it didn’t find any knotweed, and he didn’t see any knotweed because it was hidden by the bush.

Prince George street in London with tree lining the road and cars parked

The buyer purchased the house on Prince George's Avenue in London for £700,000 in 2018 (Image credit: Google Street View)

Why the judge awarded buyer £200,000

Judge Jan Luba KC ruled Mr Henderson should pay £200,000 in costs and damages after finding he did not genuinely believe the seller's story that he did not know the property was affected by knotweed at the time of sale.

The judge said his confidence in Mr Henderson’s story was “shaken” after evidence given by a knotweed expert. The evidence suggested that the knotweed canes had possibly stood two metres and may have been overhanging the neighbouring garden”.

There was also evidence that the weed had been treated with herbicide, the court heard.

Mr Henderson must now pay £32,000 damages and Mr Downing’s lawyers bills of up to £95,000, as well as his own costs of almost £100,000, according to estimates.

Sam Webb

Sam is based in Coventry and has been a news reporter for nearly 20 years. His work has featured in the Mirror, The Sun, MailOnline, the Independent, and news outlets throughout the world.  As a copywriter, he has written for clients as diverse as Saint-Gobain, Michelin, Halfords Autocentre, Great British Heating, and Irwin Industrial Tools. During the pandemic, he converted a van into a mini-camper and is currently planning to convert his shed into an office and Star Wars shrine.