Falling in love with a listed building is easy. So what should today’s purchasers consider when buying a listed property?
It is unknown how many listed building are in England, however Historic England estimate the number of listed buildings, monuments and parks etc to be over 500,000. The system was introduced to preserve buildings of historic interest during the Second World War and ensure they were protected when rebuilding post-war.
Firstly, establish which grade the property is. There are three Grades in England and Wales: Grade II, Grade II* and Grade I. The majority of buildings are Grade II and considered of special interest (for example the Caledonian Estate in Islington). Grade II* are particularly important buildings of more than special interest (Battersea Power Station is Grade II* and is undergoing development into mixed residential and commercial use). Grade I covers buildings of exceptional interest (this includes buildings such as Buckingham Palace but also Highpoint I in Highgate). Start by searching on the National Heritage List for England online.
The type of grade will affect what you can change at your property. The restrictions will apply to both external and internal works. Check the local authority planning website and Historic England who will hold further relevant information. Listed Building Consent will be required in addition to planning permission in order to carry out works at the property when you alter, extend, change or demolish any part both inside and outside of your building that could affect the character or setting. There is no charge for obtaining the Listed Building Consent. Remember the property has been listed for its special characteristics and, especially if they are mentioned in the listing itself, it is highly unlikely you will get permission to change these.
Before committing to buy your listed property you should ensure that the people who assist you have specialist experience such as your surveyor. It is particularly important that they check the condition of the windows and roof (especially a thatched roof). Remember double glazing is often not permitted in listed properties and a thatched roof ridge will need replacing every 8-10 years. After buying your property future repairs where specialist materials are required or traditional methods are used can easily be more expensive than modern means.
Insurance is also important. Buildings insurance premiums can be more expensive for listed buildings. In addition if any works were carried out prior to your purchase of the property which do not have the correct permissions, your solicitor must obtain a specialist indemnity policy which will protect you in the event any enforcement action is taken by the local authority in the future. There is no time limit for the Council to take enforcement action. The policy will cover the cost of defending enforcement action including any costs and expenses awarded against you, the expense of complying with any enforcement action (such as demolishing, altering or reinstating any part of the property), and any reduction in the market value as a result.
The reality of maintaining your listed building is a labour of love. Make sure you are prepared!