2 August 2021

Top five things to know about Listed Buildings

The pandemic has given many pause for thought and time to recalibrate what exactly is important to them and, in some cases, to review their lifestyle and how and where they wish to live. Having spent far more time in our homes than ever before, private outdoor space is now seen as a necessity by many more people living in an urban environment, where once it was only within reach of those city dwellers fortunate enough to afford spacious surroundings.

This has resulted in many cases to the much-publicised move to the countryside. It may well mean for many that they are now, for the first time, the custodians of a property of special architectural or historical interest: a listed building.

Owning a listed building is not for the faint hearted, but it can also be a source of much joy and fulfilment. Here are five crucial things to know for those thinking of purchasing, or already owning, a listed building:

1. Special attention needs to be paid when considering any repairs, maintenance or alterations.

It is an offence to extend, demolish or carry out internal or external alterations which would affect the character of the property without Listed Building Consent, whether or not the owner is aware of that being the case. Replacing windows, fitting a new kitchen and even painting the exterior of the property could all require Listed Building Consent.

2. The listing does not just include the building itself.

It includes any item or structure fixed to it and any item or structure within the curtilage, provided the latter has formed part of the land since before July 1948. This might include anything from an outbuilding to a boundary wall, a fountain or, in some cases, statues.

3. Failure to obtain Listed Building Consent has consequences.

If consent has not been correctly obtained for works which require it the person carrying out the works will face a possible maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

4. A new owner may inherit works carried out without Listed Building Consent.

It is not uncommon for works to have been carried out by a previous owner which required Listed Building Consent, but for which no Consent was obtained, or that the works were not carried out in strict adherence to the approved plans or the conditions of the Consent.

In these situations, the current owner has not committed an offence by simply owning the property. However, the local planning authority may issue an enforcement notice requiring the building to be restored to its former state or for further works to be undertaken to alleviate the effect of the works carried out without Listed Building Consent. Should the owner of the building fail to comply with the enforcement notice they will then commit an offence, for which the maximum penalty is an unlimited fine that will take into account any financial gain.

5. Seek professional advice.

It is crucial when considering purchasing a listed building, and throughout one’s ownership of it, that professional advice is sought from solicitors, architects, agents, surveyors and builders who specialise in listed buildings to ensure that potentially costly mistakes are avoided and the heritage asset of which you are a custodian can continue to be appreciated in the future.

Victoria Salter-Galbraith is a Senior Associate in our Landed Estates team and has a passion for listed and historic buildings. She has been instructed in relation to Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II listed buildings, some with secret rooms, follies and one with a carving dating from around the time of Christ.

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