Residential Property & Conveyancing

Publish date

22 November 2023

What should you know about buying and owning a listed property?

Sue Bowman in our Residential Property & Conveyancing team answers common questions about listed properties.  Sue will be at the Listed Property Show at London Olympia on 2 and 3 February 2024 and would love to see you there if you are attending. Alternatively, if you have any questions about listed properties, please get in touch with Sue directly.

What is a listed property?

A listed property is one that is included in National Heritage List for England.

Currently there are estimated to be 500,000 such buildings. You can search the Historic England list online if you wish to know more about them.

Listed buildings are divided into three tiers: Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II. Grade I buildings are rare and form only 2.5% of such buildings. Most buildings (91.7%) are Grade II which means they are of special interest, with Grade II* buildings being treated as most important of that nature.

How do they differ from other properties?

These properties are deemed to be historical assets. They are diverse and whilst they include older properties there are a number of modern structures and industrial or military buildings. This means that it may not be obvious that they are listed to the naked eye.

However, because they are special, they have protection under law, which makes them different from non-listed properties. Whilst they can be changed (or even demolished in rare cases), owners will need special permission to do so. This is called Listed Building Consent. One can be prosecuted for demolishing or making alterations without that permission.

It is a common misapprehension that only the front of the building or a certain part (such as a bread oven) is listed. But once listed, the whole premises is protected and this may extend to external buildings and structures.

What are common issues with listed buildings?

The main issues tend to revolve around illegal alterations, where someone has deliberately or innocently destroyed a part of the property that made it special. This means the person responsible may be prosecuted (jailed or fined) and they (or the new owners) may be asked to put right the damage at their cost.

Because such buildings are special they can be costly to maintain (as correct materials have to be used) and to insure.
It also means they can be harder to sell if illegal works have been undertaken. When buying such a property, care needs to be taken to identify, as far as possible, what changes have been made and what has the appropriate consent.

How can I get help with a listed building?

There are a number of helpful sources.

To raise concerns about a building at risk or to nominate one for listing, Historic England can help. They also have some advisory services which are fee based.

The Listed Property Owners Club is a national organisation with around 30,000 members. For a modest fee, it offers members access to a wealth of advice from their conservation officers, insurance and VAT specialists. There is also access to legal advice.

The key is always to use specialists when contemplating any work or changes and for any sale or purchase.

This article originally appeared in The Times of Tunbridge Wells.

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