The older or more unusual a building is, and the fewer the surviving examples of its kind, the more likely it is to be listed. Buildings less than 30 years old are not normally considered to be of special architectural or historic interest.
How do I find out if a property is listed?
The National List for England (NHLE) contains details of all listed buildings in England. When you buy a property, the estate agent will usually tell you if the building is listed, but your solicitor will check all relevant records before the purchase goes through, so you will know before you exchange contracts.
How are listed buildings graded?
- Grade I buildings are those of exceptional interest, only 2.5% of listed buildings are Grade I
- Grade II* buildings are particularly important buildings of more than special interest; 5.8% of listed buildings are Grade II
- Grade II buildings are of special interest; 91.7% of all listed buildings are in this class and it is the most likely grade of listing for a homeowner
The total number of listed buildings is not known. This is because one single entry on the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) can sometimes cover a number of individual units, such as a row of terraced houses, so the number of entries on the list doesn’t equate to the number of properties that are listed. However, it is estimated that there are around 500,000 listed buildings on the NHLE.
What does the restriction cover?
Listing is not a preservation order, preventing change, so just because you buy a listed building doesn’t mean you cannot do anything to it. It does not freeze a building in time, it simply means that listed building consent must be applied for in order to make any changes to that building which might affect its special interest. There may be a limit on what you can do and/or how you can do it.
This inclusion comes with a duty of care that the owner must abide by in order to preserve the special character that led to the building being listed. The responsibility that comes with owning a listed building can include the upkeep of both the exterior and interior of the property, as well as the surrounding area. Other parts of the property may also need to be preserved such as courtyards, garden walls and even any period statuary situated within the grounds.
There may be exceptions to what falls under your care when you own a listed building. Many flats, for example, are part of a greater listed building but their interiors are not always required to be kept in their original state. Communal areas such as hallways and grounds may be protected.
Buying a listed building
Buying a listed property may appear to be no different to purchasing any other home. However, there are a few points that need to be taken into consideration:
Applying for a mortgage on a listed building can lead to the lender asking to make alterations prior to funds being made available. If this happens to you, you should seek out professional advice before committing to any such work. Common recommendations include underpinning, damp-proofing, re-thatching etc.
Solicitors and surveyors
Ensure that your solicitor has experience in dealing in these areas as there are certain differences between buying an ordinary home and a listed building.
Insuring a listed property is obviously an essential part of owning such a building, but I can throw up one or two issues. One such problem is the fact that you will more than likely be expected to replace like-for-like should anything happen to the building.
This demand for traditional techniques and materials can significantly increase the overall cost of a rebuild, so it’s important to be aware that your insurance bill may be greater than it would ordinarily be.
Will I be able to make alterations to my listed building?
Yes, but you must get in contact with your Conversation Officer first. Your Conservation Officer will generally be a local council official who will be on hand to advise you about any changes you wish to make to your property. When assessing your plans, the Conservation Officer will need to ensure that any alterations you intend to carry out will not impact on the overall character of the building.
While this may sound like the deck will be stacked against you, Conservation Officers are fully aware of the need to adapt properties to make them habitable for contemporary living. Adding new kitchens and bathrooms should not be an issue, but major works – such as extensions, for example – may incur greater scrutiny.
Each piece of work will be assessed on an individual basis. So, providing that the special character if the building will be preserved, there may be scope to make large alterations. This will generally be under the proviso that you ensure the extension matches the original building. However, in some instances, your Conservation Officer may ask you to make major changes as modern as possible so that there is a clear distinction between the two structures.
Do I need consent?
Yes- failing to get authorisation for work completed on a listed building is a criminal offence, and there is an important point to be made here for new owners. Regardless of when the work was carried out or who did it, the current owner is liable. Therefore, it is absolutely essential when purchasing a listed building that you ensure that any changes made by previous occupants have been granted Listed Building Consent.
If you do not make the necessary checks and later fall foul of the law, you will be expected to complete any work required to revert the building back to its original state.
Common issues with listed buildings
This is probably the greatest problem facing listed buildings. Older buildings can fall foul of damp relatively easily, but there are steps that you can take to prevent it. Making sure that your roof is in good order, your walls are sound and the floor is made up of well-ventilated timber will help keep the dreaded damp at bay.
Many older homes will have poor plumbing. While this is not such a difficult thing to sort out, it can become a headache if you fail to address the issue quickly enough. Burst pipes can cause considerable damage, so it is worth putting plumbing at the top of your to-do list.
Old windows, large gaps underneath doors and poor insulation can all lead to draughts, making your listed building extremely inefficient. While things such as double glazing will generally be frowned upon by your Conservation Officer, there are ways to make things better.
Similar to plumbing, the electrics in period homes can be a cause for concern. Building regulations have changed dramatically over the last few decades, so bringing your listed building up to scratch may end up being a costly affair. Poor electrics can cause fires, especially in timber-heavy properties, so this is another area that requires immediate attention.
If you are thinking about buying a building that is listed, talk to your solicitor first about any concerns you have, or any restrictions there may be on what you may want to do, before you commit yourself.
Disclaimer – our articles are designed to give you guidance and information. There is no substitute for proper direct advice, particularly as everyone’s circumstances are different. If anything in this article may affect you, please contact us for advice that is specific to your circumstances.