Buying or inheriting a listed building can be a mixed blessing.

Carrying out works which require listed building consent without having that consent is an immediate criminal offence. This contrasts with the planning regime where carrying out works without consent does not become an offence until enforcement action has been taken by the local authority.

Obviously, owners need to take advice before doing anything but can be sure that only a positive act on their part will fall foul of the legislation.

The position is different when it comes to putting right work done without consent and dealing with a building which has fallen into a state of disrepair.

As regards work done without consent, the council can serve a listed building enforcement notice requiring work to be put right even if the work was carried out by a previous owner. The case of Braun v First Secretary of State (2003) establishes that there is no time limit for taking action as is the case with breaches of planning permission. Time may make it less expedient for a council to take action but is not a legal bar.

For buildings in a bad state of repair, the legislation is equally draconian. The council can serve a listed buildings repairs notice which will have attached a schedule of work which they require the owner to carry out.

Failure to carry out the work may result in the compulsory purchase of the building so that a new owner can be found to restore the building.

Practical tips 

  • If buying or inheriting a listed building, check the condition. An expert survey may well pay dividends. 
  • If buying a listed building, be aware that internal or external changes may be very difficult. 
  • Check carefully the planning and listed building history revealed by the local search. 
  • If anything is not clear, contact the conservation officer at the council. A local search will reveal what notices have been served but not what notices are about to be served!