The Buyers moved into the property which was located next to a care home. Between the care home and the property was a strip of land which, at the time of the survey inspection, was fenced off and did not appear to form part of either the property or the care home
Within this area, and towards the front of the property, artificial grass had been laid.
After moving in, the buyers began gardening and noticed sprouts coming up through artificial grass between the boundary fences of the property and the care home. When the artificial grass was lifted, the buyers discovered what they thought was Japanese Knotweed growing underneath and contacted a specialist to identify the invasive species and provide further guidance and quote for eradication.
The specialist identified that Japanese Knotweed’s ‘crown’ was at the base of the care home’s boundary fence and would have been visible even in the winter.
The Buyers complained to the Surveyor on the basis of the specialist’s findings and argued that the Japanese Knotweed should have been identified during their inspection prior to the purchase.
In response, the Surveyor explained that they had noted that there were two boundary fences and said they were advised by the previous owners that the land in-between belonged to the care home. As a result of this information the land was not inspected. Furthermore, they advised that the land in question had been covered by artificial grass which was cut around the fence lines, and argued that the growth of the Japanese Knotweed was not from the 2019 growing season (when the property was surveyed), but was growth from the 2020 growing season (when the Buyers moved in). Due to the nature of the visual inspection the Surveyor explained that there would be limitations on what could be reported due to weather conditions and visibility on the day.
The Description and Standard Terms of Engagement outlined the service the
buyers should have expected to receive from the surveyor, which made clear that the inspection was visual, based on what could be seen, adding that the surveyor would not take up carpets, lift floor coverings, move furniture, or remove the content of cupboards.
The surveyors report contained no photographs of the affected area at the time of inspection. The only photographs provided were taken by the specialist at the time of their inspection 8 months later. The report also made clear that the inspection was carried out within the boundaries of the property, or those fenced areas. The fence between the property boundary and the affected area was short. It appeared maybe no more than three feet tall. The area affected would, therefore, have been clearly visible.
This brought the dispute back to the question as to what was visible at the time of the surveyor’s inspection.
It was clear that the artificial grass was removed by the buyers before the specialists attended the property. This was clear from the photographs provided by the specialist which showed the affected area without the artificial grass laid down. The photograph of the particular crown referred to showed a large lump (no wider than a clipboard pictured next to it) with a cane pointed out, under the fence towards the care home.
In light of the movement of the artificial grass, the Adjudicator could not agree with buyers’ and the specialist’s view that the aforementioned crown should have been visible to the surveyors at the time of their inspection. The inspection was visual and did not include the care home’s boundary fence. Furthermore, there was no evidence to suggest that Japanese Knotweed would have been visual given the artificial grass covering and the time of year.
Despite the expense and aggravation caused to the buyers as a result of the discovery of Japanese Knotweed, the Adjudicator could not conclude that this was visible at the point the surveyor carried out their inspection. As such, the complaint was not supported.