When you’re considering a property, buying a listed building means inheriting a grand property steeped in history – but it also means having to be aware of the rules, regulations and issues surrounding listed properties.
What is a listed building?
A listed building gets its name from being on the National Heritage List, which deems the building of ‘special architectural or historic interest.’ As a result, you have to protect the building’s character and as an owner, it’s your responsibility to maintain this. It doesn’t just refer to the house – you’ll also need to pay attention to the outside of the building.
How does a building get listed? Any that were made before 1700 and survive in a similar state to their original design are listed. Most buildings made between 1700 and 1840 are listed, but after this selection grows more complex. Particular attention is paid to buildings created after 1945 – with only exceptionally interesting buildings listed. To be listed at all, a building MUST be over 30 years old.
Once listed, the building comes under special protection against demolition or development that can harm its character. You CAN alter a building, but you’ll need planning guidance from the conservation officer to make any changes. You can’t do anything to alter the look of property without consent, which is free to acquire.
Caring for a listed building
Due to their age, you’ll have to keep on top of maintenance in a listed building to protect its value. Damp is a common problem, so you’ll have to ensure the causes of damp are kept on top of – these include blocked or broken guttering, the outside ground level being too high or sloped towards the building and overflows. You’ll need a surveyor to spot problems such as rising damp – but avoid modern fixes such as injecting cement into walls, which can actually stop the building breathing and cause worse problems.
Damage and decay is another factor, which can be remedied with repair work – but you’ll need to source permission from your conservation officer. Most small repairs that don’t alter appearances won’t need any permission. If you’re not actually living in the property, you can be forced to make repairs with an urgent works notice – which you’ll either have to carry out or the local authority can go in themselves and bill you.
Flood risk is another element to consider. Many listed buildings are in the countryside, making them prone to flood risk. You can add air brick covers and door guards in rainy periods, but you’ll also want to remove any run-off surfaces in the exterior of a property. If you do experience flooding, you’ll unfortunately need to seek advice from the planning authority before beginning repairs.
Often, the age of a listed building can make it particularly inefficient when it comes to the environment and bills. You can upgrade heating in most buildings by adding a new boiler, but any insulation work in the attic and other rooms will need planning advice. Most listed building owners may also consider double glazing – but the modern glass style can change the look of a listed building so you’ll need to get permission.
Luckily, there is a solution – many companies offer customised secondary glazing that can leave the original windows untouched. This not only helps insulate the building, it’ll be far easier to get approval.
Despite all of these issues, owning a listed building is a prestigious and rewarding venture. You’ll be residing in a part of history itself. However, thanks to the risk, it’s always worth investing in listed building insurance from specialists such as Lycetts to assist you in case of emergency.