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Robert Irving Burns

A Guide to Buying or Renting Listed Buildings

September 11, 2020    |   Robert Irving Burns

Listed buildings are always sought-after, by buyers and renters alike. Usually, they’re attractive period properties with plenty of character, and make excellent family homes. They’re also typically easy to sell on afterwards, as they maintain a high level of desirability.

If you’re thinking of purchasing or renting a listed property, here’s some things you should know before you start your search.

What is a listed property?

If a building is ‘listed’, it’s defined as a property that’s of ‘special architectural or historic interest’. It is also officially recorded on The National Heritage List. There are a range of factors that decide whether a property is worthy of being listed, such as:

  • Age (the older the building is, the more likely it is to be listed)
  • The architect who designed it (if it’s someone noteworthy)
  • Any special / historic features

The majority of listed buildings are old, though some modern properties make it onto the list too. There are three types of listed building. These are:

Grade I

A listed building is only regarded as ‘Grade I’ if it is of exceptional interest. As such, this is the least common type.

Grade II*

A Grade II* listed building is considered to have something important about it (i.e. historic interest, or a particularly special feature). Again, this isn’t a terribly common type of property.

Grade II

Grade II is the most common type of listed building, and covers any property that has a level of historic or architectural relevance.

The implications for buyers and renters

If a building is listed, this typically means that it’s protected, both inside and out. That usually includes any buildings that are attached to it, and may even include modern extensions too. Sometimes, a listing will also cover external features like outbuildings, the layout of the garden, and the garden walls. This means that you might not be allowed to make changes to the property.

Applying to alter the building

You can change various aspects of a listed property, but you’ll need to apply to your local conservation officer beforehand.

The conservation officer will review your request, and may ask that you adhere to certain conditions while undertaking the building work. For example, if the property has been built using a particular type of brick, the conservation officer might insist that you source the same kind of brick if you want to add an extension. This is to preserve the integrity of the building.

If you have a Grade I or Grade II* listed property, be aware that your local authority will also notify English Heritage about your planning application. This is sometimes the case for Grade II listed buildings too.

Addressing a previous owner’s mistake

Unfortunately, some listed property owners choose to make changes to the building without obtaining the necessary permission. If you’re buying a listed property, it’s important to check that this isn’t the case, otherwise, it’s your responsibility to put the situation right – even though you didn’t carry out the work yourself. This can be costly and stressful, so check before you commit to buy.

If you’re renting the property, it’ll be the landlord’s job to reverse the unpermitted building work, not yours.

Maintaining the property

Listed buildings require maintenance to ensure that their special, historic features are preserved. As such, if you buy a listed home, you should expect to have to do the following tasks fairly regularly:

  • Treat and repaint external woodwork where necessary
  • Clean the chimneys
  • Repoint any brickwork or stonework
  • Keep the boiler serviced
  • Repair and maintain any plaster, rendering, brickwork etc.
  • Keep the gutters and drainpipes clean and clear
  • Check the roof (thatch or tiles) is in good order
  • Check the electrics

Be aware that some repairs may need to be carried out to a particular standard, and you might have to hire a specialist to do the work. This is particularly the case for repointing or rethatching the roof, for example.

As a tenant, your responsibilities are likely to be less, as your landlord will take on a lot of the work for you. However, you may be expected to carry out certain checks, and notify the landlord if you spot any issues. It’s worthwhile checking what your responsibilities are before signing the tenancy agreement.

Other commonly asked questions

What about insuring the property?

Generally speaking, it’s more expensive to insure a listed building. This is because the repairs usually need to be done to a particular standard, with specific materials. It’s a wise idea to factor this extra expense into the equation before you commit to buy.

What if you want to do work on the property and your request is refused?

If you feel strongly that you should be permitted to make changes to your listed home, you can fight the conservation officer’s refusal. However, this is a lengthy process, and involves a local inquiry, which is called by the Secretary of State.

Before you move into the listed property, think about whether it meets your requirements in its existing state. Although it’s possible to make changes (and changes are often approved quickly and easily), it can be frustrating to plan an extension, for example, only to find that you’re not allowed to carry out the work.

Is there any support for listed property owners?

The Listed Property Owner’s Club is a membership-only society, which provides independent advice on a variety of issues associated with owning a listed building. You can find out more about them via their website.

Where can I find available listed buildings?

A great place to start is your local estate agents! If you get in touch with the RIB team today, we’ll keep you up to date on any listed properties that come onto our books.

Are listed buildings worth the extra work?

Most listed property owners agree that it’s well worth the additional maintenance and expense. In return, you’ll benefit from a home with a wealth of beautiful features, which is often in a pleasant area. Ultimately, the final decision lies with you.

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