Japanese knotweed (JKW) claims: what you need to know

Read our guide to find out more about the problems Japanese knotweed can pose and the investment opportunities offered by the claims made by those affected. 

A guide to Japanese knotweed (JKW)

VWM Capital makes available investment opportunities in UK litigation claims. As these are uncorrelated to traditional capital markets, they are relatively insulated from market volatility. As well as offering a great investment opportunity, litigation funding also helps people bring their cases to court when they may not otherwise be able to do so.

Among the litigation claims we fund are Japanese knotweed claims. Read on to find out more about the problems Japanese knotweed can pose and the investment opportunities offered by the claims made by those affected. 


What is Japanese knotweed?

Japanese knotweed was introduced by botanists into Britain in the 19th century as an ornamental plant. Its ability to grow and spread rapidly led Victorian engineers to use it to stabilise railway embankments. 

This is why today Network Rail – along with local authorities and other large landowners – find themselves defending a large number of cases from homeowners who have adjoining properties where the plant has spread.

The plant has the potential to damage buildings, and it also leads to significantly diminished property values where it is known to be present on the property itself or on neighbouring lands.


What is the scale of the Japanese knotweed problem?

Leading knotweed experts Environet regularly update their heatmap of where the plant has been found. It estimates that “approximately 5% of homes across the UK are currently affected by Japanese knotweed, typically impacting property prices by around 5-10%.” 


How easy is Japanese knotweed to remove from affected lands?

There is no legal requirement to remove the invasive plant, and this places the burden on affected owners to take legal action to remedy the financial loss or material damage caused.

Japanese knotweed is difficult to remove successfully. It can take 5 years to treat but can grow to 3-4 metres in just 10 weeks, with its rhizomes spreading 7 metres underground and often compromising the structure of nearby buildings.

The only reliable way to eradicate the invasive plant effectively is to dig it up completely, although this results in huge volumes of waste and high landfill charges.

While some disputes and claims arise from neighbours the most common claims are related to the threat it poses as it overgrows from large organisations’ lands that are either mismanaged or neglected.


The increasing legal precedents for successful Japanese knotweed claims

VWM Capital uses lawtech and legal experts to fund litigation claims that have significant established case law behind them. The claims we pursue are where judgments in past cases have been made in favour of claimants, setting a precedent for future rulings.  

There is a growing historical body of such rulings that support claimants’ cases in Japanese knotweed claims.


Environmental Protection Act 1990

As part of this act’s provision, knotweed was first indisputably identified as a pernicious plant. Following requirements under Part 2A of the act knotweed was clearly considered to be a ground contaminant that required remediation.

Hunter v. Canary Wharf Ltd., [1997] UKHL 14

This established what is known as the ‘nuisance liability’ whereby property owners may be liable for causing a nuisance if Japanese knotweed spreads onto another person’s property. The affected property owner can seek legal remedies.

Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd v Williams & Anor [2018] EWCA Civ 1514

This claim, brought by two owners of adjoining cottages to Network Rail-owned land, reached the Court of Appeal where it was established that knotweed poses an actionable nuisance if it is found to have encroached from one property on to another. 

In addition, it also established that the mere presence of knotweed diminishes property value and that legal redress for this should be available.

Davies v Bridgend County Borough Council [2023] EWCA Civ 80.

This significant legal action brought by a householder affected by Japanese knotweed has raised the prospect of an increase in claims. 

The court of appeal ruled that a homeowner could recover damages for a loss of value of their property from having had Japanese knotweed, even if it had been treated. It also confirmed beyond doubt that any loss of a property’s value can be legally recovered.


Why does VWM Capital fund selected Japanese knotweed cases?

At VWM Capital, we use algorithm-based technology to improve legal financing. By combining this with opinions from independent legal experts, we are able to process a high volume of lower-sum cases accurately. 

This allows us to target funding towards cases that may otherwise not come to court, support ESG investment objectives and provide a high level of risk diversification benefits to our investors.  

The market-leading lawtech we use allows us to accurately preselect the Japanese knotweed cases with the highest chances of a successful resolution.  We seek expert legal opinions on shortlisted cases before approving them for funding. 

This vetting process minimises risk for investors, who also benefit from the ATE insurance secured on every claim. 

Many Japanese knotweed claims in the UK are actually settled before action in the county courts, which further reduces the legal fees required and grants investors a fast time to liquidity.


The future legal landscape for Japanese knotweed claims

Recent cases, such as Davies v Bridgend County Borough Council [2023], have set precedents that extend the responsibilities of the owner of the land from which knotweed has spread and firmly established that resulting property value losses can be awarded.

We, and many other specialists, expect to see many more claims coming to court that will be seeking funding and have a high likelihood of success.

Chun Wong, partner at Hodge, Jones and Allen solicitors, commented on the Davies case by noting how far it extended the grounds on which a claim can be upheld. She said it makes it possible to claim “after the knotweed has been treated even if it hasn’t caused physical damage per se. Its presence and the stigma attached means somebody is going to pay less for this house. It makes it easier for homeowners who have the presence of knotweed without actual physical damage to think: Maybe I should make a claim.

Meanwhile, Tom Carter, who represented Davies in the case, confirms that “the knotweed landscape probably will stay busy for the foreseeable future and defendants no longer have an argument about claimants being unable to recover for diminution of property price, so the value of the claims are higher.”

This is a great situation for investors and claimants alike. Many of those eligible to claim for the effects of Japanese knotweed that has encroached from adjoining land would not be able to do so without funding. Often the defendant in the case is a large landowner, local authority or Network Rail – all of whom benefit from deeper pockets than most homeowners.


Investing in forward-thinking Japanese knotweed litigation funding

Japanese knotweed is a nuisance – and it is now clearly identified as a legal nuisance that can be pursued in court by those living on lands adjoining where it is.

There are already a number of Japanese knotweed claims in the UK courts, and experts predict that the number of claims will continue to rise. The cases brought to court are expected to rise and many will require funding.

VWM Capital uses the power of technology and legal expertise to maximise returns and minimise risks from such funding. 


You can gain more insight into how our litigation funding works here. Please contact the team for all investment enquiries.