With a non-listed building in the eventuality of say, a fire, there will be an insurance claim which would involve the owner and the insurer, probably a loss adjuster, who between them will agree how the building will be reinstated, how much it will cost etc. With a listed building, it will be an entirely different scenario. It is the local council’s conservation officer (or in the case of Grade I or Grade II*, Historic England) who will decide if it is to be rebuilt, how it is to be rebuilt, which materials and which methods are used. They have no interest in how much it is going to cost or who pays, but they have the backing of law to ensure the building is reinstated to its previous condition.
Things to look out for when choosing your listed building insurance policy:
Unapproved changes: if a previous owner made alterations to the building without consent, the local planning authority may require you to reverse those alterations at your own cost. When you are buying a listed building you should always ensure you make suitable searches regarding alterations. Providing you were not already aware of them, look for policies that include cover for unauthorised alterations to listed buildings by previous owners.
Expert staff: the staff you deal with should have a proper understanding of listed buildings and the requirements and responsibilities of owners. Plus, most intermediaries nowadays do not offer ‘advice’ as such, and will just put forward a policy – this is not ideal. Look to use brokers who understand how their insurers think and have in-depth knowledge of their policies to ensure they are well-positioned to offer the most appropriate advice.
Additional allowances to sums insured: if disaster strikes, unforeseen costs to repair or rebuild your listed property can continue to climb as the job progresses. If you have an acceptable rebuild valuation, look for policies where an uplift in the buildings sum insured (BSI) is provided to cover additional expenses that may be incurred in the event of a claim.
Tracing and accessing a leak: water leaks are one of the highest causes of insurance claim. In a ‘standard’ property it can be a fairly ‘standard’ process to repair any damage caused when trying to locate a leak. When that property is listed, it becomes far more complicated and costly to repair the damage. Policies should be designed to cover the cost of the materials and trade skills needed when tracing and accessing a leak in a listed property.
Alternative accommodation: repairing or rebuilding a listed building tends to take longer due to the consents that need to be put in place, the time needed to source skilled craftsmen and because specialist trades can be time-consuming. Ideally, you should be looking for policies that provide extensive alternative accommodation cover for a few years or more, in case you have to move out in the course of a claim.
Works cover: listed homes can often be in need of restoration, conversion and conservation. The vast majority of home insurance companies are unwilling to insure homes that are undergoing a building works project – this is where a specialist broker comes in and will be able to arrange it for you.
Your responsibility to conserve the building: in the event of damage to your property, your conservation officer will specify that all repairs or rebuilding must be carried out to their exact specifications using the appropriate traditional methods and materials. Your insurance policy must be designed to cover the use of such skills and period materials.