Be aware of the rules when buying a listed property

17th January 2015 by

If you dream of living in a listed property such as an old thatched cottage, converted barn or even a castle, there will be many practical considerations before making a decision on purchase and consulting an experienced residential conveyancing solicitor will smooth the path.

In the UK there are nearly 400,000 properties which are registered as listed buildings of historic or architectural interest and anyone thinking of buying one of these needs to be aware of some of the many rules and regulations entailed in doing building work, both inside and out, and subsequently living in such a home.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport decides on the merits of listing buildings which are in three categories – Grade I (buildings of exceptional interest), Grade II* (buildings of special interest) and Grade II (other buildings of special interest). These are monitored by the relevant local authority for each area, which may also have a list of buildings of character and importance, a definition without legal status but serving as a public record.

All buildings constructed before 1700, which have survived in useable condition, are likely to be listed as are most from the period 1700 to 1840. More information about listing identification and procedure is on the website of English Heritage.

Although official listing is merely a way of identifying properties which have significance to the history and character of the English landscape, rules beyond those of usual planning requirements seek to protect and enhance those houses.

Buying a listed building means that if the owner wishes to demolish, alter or extend the building in any way which affects its character or setting, the conservation and/or planning officers of the local authority will need to be consulted and application made for Listed Building Consent (LBC), which is similar to planning permission.

If consent is not obtained before altering a listed building, a case may be made before magistrates, possibly resulting in a fine or even imprisonment for the owner. The local authority can also issue an enforcement notice if unauthorised works have been carried out.

An owner can be required to return a property to its original state and these notices also can be enforced for work completed by a previous owner.

Pre-purchase searches on a historic property

In the case of a historic property, the usual pre-purchase searches carried out by a conveyancing solicitor may well be more extensive and time-consuming than for a more modern house in order to investigate issues such as covenants and uses of neighbouring land and property, boundaries and possible archaeological investigations.

Utility supplies may be more complicated for a listed building. For example, a satellite TV dish, which is quite acceptable on the outside of a suburban 1930s house, is less likely to be permitted on a 500-year-old thatched cottage in a village.

Not only residential properties but also ancillaries, including boundary walls, may be listed even if the home they surround is not, and the standard regulations regarding maintenance and care will apply to the listed items.

One advantage of owning a listed property is that grants and loans for its repair and maintenance may be available and VAT is not always payable on building work. The Listed Property Owners Clubprovides useful advice on many practical aspects of living in a listed building and acts as a pressure group on legislation affecting ownership.

Obtaining a mortgage to buy a listed house may not be as straight-forward as one which is less historic with valuers seeking to ensure the security of the risk will not be compromised. As with all borrowing, it will also be subject to the lender’s rules on the ability of the borrower to repay and if extensive repairs are needed this may be reflected in the amount of finance advanced.

Buying a listed building with Healys solicitors of London and Brighton

With London being the historic capital of England, there are thousands of historic properties throughout the city so it is quite likely that a potential home could be a listed building. If the seller is unsure of the status of the house, a search through the local authority records should identify it and, occasionally, a residential conveyancing solicitor’s search may alert the authority to a potential for listing if it has not been made previously.

The same is true of Brighton, where there are more than 500 listed buildings, and other towns, cities and villages throughout the UK but this need not deter a would-be purchaser.

Although the procedure with buying a listed building is unlikely to be little more complicated than a standard conveyancing transaction, Healys has the expertise to help. Thanks to or links with other professionals and the skills available across our general legal practice we have the ability to advise and give practical assistance should any difficulties arise.

For more information and advice on costs of Healys’ conveyancing services, please request a call-back via the website or email partner Kiri Kkoshi – telephone 020 7822 4148.