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8th February 2019

Listed buildings: what to consider when buying

Living in historic places like Bath, Cambridge or even smaller villages and towns such as Tetbury or Laycock is the dream for some. Other than the allure of their cultural riches or natural surrounds, there are streets lined with beautiful homes. Buying or selling architecturally significant houses, however, comes with its challenges.

Listed buildings, i.e. properties considered to have special, historic or architectural features worth preserving, are a prime example. Whether you agree with the principle of listed buildings as a way of maintaining our historic buildings, or consider it restrictive, over the top or preventing practical alterations – most will agree that the rules are a bit ambiguous.

For starters, whether works on a listed building need consent in the first place can be subjective. Officially, consent is required where the ‘historical character’ of the building would be affected. Sellers and buyers have found themselves at loggerheads trying to establish whether prior works should have had consent. If you’re considering making changes to your home, the safest option is to discuss your plans with either the council’s listed buildings team or a local planning consultant or architect – and keep all correspondence for the future.

The risk for anyone buying a listed property which has had unconsented works on it is that the council could ask the property to be returned to its original state – at any point in time – and even if you’re not the owner that undertook the works. So it’s important when buying a listed building that you’re content with any prior works – and permissions given (or not given) for those.

Many owners do have listed building consents, but don’t have the corresponding plans. Consents often only state the basics, especially older ones, for example, for “alterations” or the “addition of a bedroom”. It is the plans which reveal the works for which consent was granted. It can be helpful to compare the listed building plans to the current estate agent floor plans before buying.

Despite people trying to do things the right way, more often than not, legally perfect listed buildings are not the reality. A solicitor can help you differentiate between the small issues and the deal breakers when looking to buy a house. If you’re planning works on your listed home, hang on to all the correspondence to ensure you avoid difficulties in the future.

For more information on anything discussed in this article, please contact Anna Christie or another member of the Residential Property team. Alternatively, download our top tips for moving property below.

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