Buying a Listed Building

Buying a listed building should not be a difficult or stressful process.  It only becomes this way if you don't follow a simple set of rules.  

All of a Listed Building is Listed!  This comment may seem a little strange - but we very frequently encounter clients who tell us their solicitor told them 'only the outside is Listed' or 'It's only the staircase that's Listed'.  This is not the case.  If a building is Listed - the entire building, and anything attached to it like barns, is listed.  Some structures like garden walls will be 'Curtilage Listed' - they don't form part of the building, but they are an integral part of the significance of the Listed Asset. Listing is designed to protect the Character of the asset for future generations.

From the date of Listing, every building must have a clearly defined record of interventions.  Repairs and maintenance are exempt from Listing rules, so long as they are like-for-like.  In an ideal world, if a patch of brickwork was repointed like-for-like, it would be done using lime mortar.  Almost inevitably, local bodgit builder uses cement. At this point, technically the repair is not compliant with the Listing - but it is just not feasible to take enforcement action against owners for every dab of cement.  The trouble is, incremental actions like this are the very reason so many Listed Buildings are in such a poor state of repair.

If a window rots and is replaced with a new timber window looking the same - that is fine.  Even better, the original glazing panels are retained and re-used.  If the rotten frame is taken out and replaced with UPVc - enforcement action will almost certainly result..  

If walls internally are removed to enlarge a kitchen, or an ensuite is added to a bedroom, unless the details have been approved in a planning application, those works are illegal and can be subject to an enforcement order to re-instate the building in an as-was state.

Our surveys include a detailed assessment of the status of the building as surveyed, and a comparison with any details which form part of the planning history of the building. These are found on the Local Authority (LA) planning portal - where all applications relating to the building will be stored.  These take the form of planning applications and decision notices, together with details of Listed Building Consent applications - which should have associated with them Schedule of works, materials specification, and any additional communications from related bodies - for example English Heritage.  With these will be existing and proposed plans and elevations of the building.  If the Listing is an early one (some can date to the 1950's) it may be difficult to access all planning records - many LA's are only digitising applications going back 5, or sometimes 10 years. Different LA's have different approaches to providing data that is not available online - some will happily search and provide this at no charge - others have a very commercial approach and charge fees for searches and document copies - which can get expensive.  

Buying a grade 2 listed building is no different to buying a Grade 1 or Grade 2* Listed building.  The only difference between them is that the designation relates to the level of significance which the asset is though to have.  Grade 1 are of 'exceptional interest', Grade 2* are 'particularly important' and Grade 2 are of 'Special Interest warranting every interest to preserve them'.

Owning a grade 2 listed building is not, and should not be a issue.  It only becomes so when owners make changes without seeking approval.  If you accept from the outset that Buying a Listed Building does place certain restrictions on what you can do to it, then ownership will be a pleasure.

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