Can neighbor’s bamboo spoil our home sale?


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Dear Real Estate Adviser,
We plan to put our house on the market but have a problem with the neighbors. They have a very invasive bamboo crop growing everywhere on their property and it tends to climb into our yard, requiring cutting at least twice a year, plus the use of a chemical spray. The same neighbors even had the nerve to complain about our trimming and spraying of it! What can we do?
— Frank T.

Dear Frank,
Indeed, your neighbor’s makeshift “big bamboo” fence could be a deterrent to a potential buyer who is familiar with the kudzu-like growth potential of the plant, which is technically a grass.

Once planted, bamboo tends to engage its owners (and neighbors) in long-term relationships that are hard to escape, as you’ve found. Bamboo’s underground rhizomes can travel under fences and basements and foundations, and bamboo can spring up everywhere around the neighborhood, including the sewer system. And man, it can be tough to eradicate. Japanese bamboo (Japanese knotweed), which is technically not real bamboo, is particularly aggressive and stubborn.

States and cities restrict bamboo

Several states and cities now have laws forbidding homeowners from letting invasive “running bamboo” grow beyond their properties’ boundaries. Connecticut is the latest to join that group with a law that became effective in October 2013 requiring installation of a containment system for all new plantings. Violators there are subject to fines of $100 daily.

Certain species of bamboo are considered noxious weeds or invasive exotic plants in some jurisdictions, making their owners liable for damage to neighbors’ properties and for the cost of removal. Contact your city attorney or code enforcement office to see what laws may be in force in your area.

Bamboo may or may not have to be disclosed

Once contained, the bamboo may not be something you need to put on your disclosure form when you sell unless it has damaged your home or you are engaged in a lawsuit about it. Potential buyers and their inspectors have eyes anyway. Consult your real estate agent or a real estate attorney about the disclosure issue if need be.

There’s more than one way to limit bamboo

Meanwhile, there are many treatments that various gardeners swear by. A compound called glyphosate found in Roundup and other herbicides apparently works well on emerging stalks, but won’t stop your neighbor’s bamboo crop from continuously sending invaders. Some people swear by the liberal use of saltwater or rock salt on the invading plants — a possible solution that’s cheaper and more organic.

And by the way, your neighbor’s complaints about your killing the bamboo on your side are groundless. As for the containment system mentioned earlier, it calls for excavating to a 36-inch depth to create what’s essentially a solid concrete moat around the property — hopefully, the neighbor’s property.

Insurance may cover damage

If the invasion should turn destructive before you take action or it already has, you may have to ask the neighbors for the name of their property insurance agent so you can submit a claim, or contact your own carrier to let them deal with the problem on your behalf.

I wouldn’t blame you a bit for feeling a little bamboozled at this point, if you will. But short of buying a pair of pandas, you’ll have to take the initiative.

Good luck!

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