31 Jan 2017

A guide to owning a listed property

If you are an owner of a listed property or are thinking of buying one, you might have a number of questions but are unsure who to ask or where to turn for advice. Here, The Listed Property Owners’ Club (LPOC) experts answer some of the most frequently asked questions from their members.

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Q: What is a conservation officer and are they important?

A: Conservation officers are generally employees of the local council and their role is to ensure the character of the building remains intact. They will be one of your most important points of contact as the officer will grant – or deny – listed building consent. They may even dictate the materials and techniques that you should use to make these changes.

Q: What is listed building consent?

A: If you want to alter or extend a listed building in a way that affects its character or appearance as a building of special architectural or historic interest, or even demolish it, you must first apply for listed building consent from your local planning authority.

Contrary to popular belief, listing protects the complete building, both inside and out (not just the front), and may also include garden walls, courtyards and even statuary within the garden. Some buildings are also ‘curtilage listed’ meaning that if your property is situated within the curtilage of, or attached to, a listed building it may also be listed. Make sure you know what is protected under the listing within your home and any grounds.

Q: Who is responsible for unauthorised work?

A: If a previous owner made alterations to the building without listed building consent, the local planning authority may require you to reverse those alterations at your own cost. It doesn’t matter who carried out the work, or how long ago, it will become the new owner’s responsibility.

Q: What if I want to extend or alter my listed building?

A: If you are planning to extend or alter a listed building, it is vital that you involve your conservation officer at the earliest stage possible. If you are planning alterations to a listed property, be realistic as to what will be allowed.

Q: Is double glazing acceptable in a listed property?

A: It is unusual to be able to introduce double glazing into the narrow glazing bars of period windows and for this reason double glazing is difficult. However, there would be no restriction on using secondary glazing and this is the method normally recommended. The use of very slim double glazing units set within the original glazing bars may be acceptable although some conservation officers reject them due to the unsightly reflection. Listed building consent will be required if, for example, the windows are to be replaced with a new style of window or you wish to repaint existing windows a different colour to the existing.

Q: How does my insurance differ from a non-listed property?

A: The insurance of a listed building is very different to a modern building. Should disaster strike, the cost of repairing using traditional methods and materials will be greater than a ‘normal’ house and your conservation officer will seek to ensure you reinstate ‘like for like’. LPOC have worked with their insurance providers to create a series of policies, one of which includes cover to pay to rebuild your home exactly as it was before. If you are about to buy a listed building, they can provide protection against unauthorised work by the previous owner, provided that there is no previous knowledge of the work that took place, and offer further protection when builders and workmen are at your home. They can also advise on how you insure for the correct amount with a guaranteed rebuild value or provide a safety margin.

Q: Do I need to use specialist suppliers and traditional methods?

A: LPOC members benefit from a suppliers directory of professionals, builders and tradesmen and is the first port of call for many listed building owners across the country. You can rest assured that suppliers from the directory have been used previously by LPOC members, on a house just like yours, and are specialists in their trade.

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