Buying a period property is an attractive proposition for many people. Whilst modern buildings come with many of the amenities that make life easier, they can sometimes be a bit too sensible; lacking the quirks and characterful charm that many older buildings have in bucket loads.
Older buildings often come with their own issues, however, with this being even more the case when the building is Listed.
So whether for residential or commercial purposes, what should you consider when taking on a Listed building?
There are three levels of listing in England and Wales: Grade I, Grade II and Grade II* – and a Grade I Listed building will have more restrictions than one that is Grade II Listed. Different grading levels have a different set of restrictions around what you are/are not allowed to do. So it is always worth confirming this with the local Planning Authority before commencing any work.
When a building has Listed status, this often applies to all areas of the property, both internal and external. You therefore need to be careful to seek appropriate consent before making any changes, even if you perceive it to be something relatively simple. Failure to obtain Listed Building Consent is a criminal offence and you will often be required to return the building to its original state at your own expense should the local council’s Conservation Officer deem the work you have undertaken has not been permitted.
Before purchasing a Listed building, it is essential to have a detailed building survey undertaken by a Chartered Surveyor who has experience of dealing with Listed buildings. Getting advice from an unqualified or inexperienced surveyor could prove a very costly mistake as they may fail to research the Listed status to identify all of the potential issues you could face.
Another potential issue that it is worth checking up on is any previous works that have been carried out by previous owners with or without local authority approval; you will inherit these when the sale is completed.
Undertaking works on Listed buildings is often not straightforward and due to the many hurdles there are to overcome, it is well worth seeking professional advice. A Chartered Building Surveyor / property consultant with Listed building experience and knowledge of the Planning Application system will also be able to help you through the process: prepare all drawings, advise on costs and timescales, and manage communications with the Local Authority’s Conservation Officer on your behalf.
If speed is of the essence, buying a Listed Building may not be the right decision for you. As described above, consent must be obtained for any changes or alterations you want to make, and this process doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes, the application will require a Heritage Consultant’s report and details may need to be re-submitted, taking into account the comments from the Local Authority. Any plans for work that are approved may have certain conditions attached, including the type of materials that can be used. Again, this is where a property consultant with Listed buildings experience really helps. Obtaining their advice can help to increase the likelihood that the proposed works will gain approval, reducing the overall timeframe of gaining Planning Consent.
Lea Hough Chartered Surveyors is able to advise on Listed Buildings and have experience of helping both private owners and commercial clients with planning, gaining consent and overseeing programmes of alteration works by the selection of appropriate building contractors. For an initial discussion about our Listed building services, please get in touch.