Japanese knotweed: Phil Spencer discusses plant
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An accountant who was sued more than £200,000 after Japanese knotweed was found in the garden of his former home has called the decision a “devastating miscarriage of justice”. Jeremy Henderson, 41, sold his home to furniture designer Jonathon Downing, 30, in August 2018. Mr Downing, who trained at the world-renowned Chippendale International School of Furniture planned to build a workshop in the garden. But he was shocked to discover Japanese knotweed lurking behind the garden shed after moving into the three-bedroom home in Raynes Park, south west London.
Mr Downing had bought the home for £700,000.
He sued Mr Henderson, who must now pay £32,000 damages and Mr Downing’s lawyers bills of up to £95,000, as well as his own costs, estimated at almost £100,000.
Speaking today, the former owner described the judge’s decision as “totally outrageous”, claiming the invasive plant was never picked up in his own housing survey from 2015.
He told the Mirror: “I hope we don’t have to sell our family home to pay for it but it’s going to be really difficult. It’s just a ludicrous amount of money.
“My survey didn’t reveal it when I moved in, my neighbours didn’t know about it either. The knotweed was essentially underneath the shed in a tiny gap between the shed and fence. It was hidden by this big bush which sort of stopped it from growing and totally hid it.
“You can’t expect a seller to be a horticulturist, but if it was obvious I would have noticed it. How can everyone be expected to look in every inch of their garden? I felt there wasn’t any common sense applied to this judgment.
“It’s just a crazy amount of money for what’s happened. It’s totally ridiculous. It’s had a massive effect on my life and my family’s lives, and it’s going to take a long time to get over it.”
Mr Henderson also claimed that the buyer did not carry out their own survey before moving in.
The dad-of-two said: “He didn’t get a professional survey done when buying the house and, if he had, it could’ve found the knotweed. If the judge is claiming it’s so visible that I should’ve known it was there, then if the survey hadn’t found it, it would vindicate me and corroborate what I was saying. It wasn’t obvious.”
Mr Henderson said his 77-year-old mum feels “devastated” after failing to spot the knotweed while gardening at the property.
He said: “It’s just been very stressful and a total nightmare. It’s impacted my stress and my mother’s, because she did a lot of gardening at the property.
“She’s a passionate amateur gardener but feels that she didn’t see any knotweed – she knows all about it and what it looks like, and she didn’t see it at all either. My family think it’s insane, and just beyond ridiculous.”
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Mr Henderson had ticked “no” to the question on the TA6 property information form asking if the property had been affected by knotweed, and argued that he “reasonably believed” he was telling the truth when he did so.
Outlining the case at Central London County Court, Mr Downing’s barrister Tom Carter told Judge Luba that an expert said the weed had probably been in the garden since at least 2012.
“The defendant could have ticked ‘Yes’, ‘Not Known’ or ‘No’ – by ticking ‘No’, the defendant chose to positively assert there was no knotweed at the property and thereby made a misrepresentation,” Mr Carter said.
His barrister said there was no way that Mr Henderson could prove that he had a “reasonable belief” that there was no knotweed present at the time he filled in the seller’s forms. The defendant cannot discharge the burden on him of showing that he had reasonable ground to believe that the property was not affected by knotweed,” he said.
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