Last week, I reported on the cut-price stately home; one of the reasons for their lack of saleability could be due to their listed status and the difficulties in making alterations to the property. This week, well look at the trials and tribulations of owning a listed building. For many people, it is a great source of pride that the property they live in is a listed building. Their home has been judged to be of national importance, in terms of architecture or historic interest, and it is often the case that the occupier has worked very hard to be able to own such a property; therefore it has an aspirational feel to it.
Not surprisingly, when most people achieve the goal, they want to stay in that property for a long time, so it is natural that, at some point, changes or repairs will be desirable or necessary. When such a time comes, there really is no need to worry about the fact that the property is listed.
While not an exhaustive list, external changes that require planning approval include extensions, alterations, rebuilding, stonework, rendering and the removal or addition of features such as railings. Internally, this can include alterations to layout, such as floor levels and internal partitions, or changes to features of interest or value.
It is important to note that carrying out unauthorised work to a listed building is a criminal offence, which can lead to prosecution, and a local authority can insist on the reversal of all work. However, as with any other planning procedure, taking time to prepare in advance, be fully informed, and handle things correctly can make things run as smoothly, and as legally, as possible.
In England, there are more than 374,000 listed buildings, so it is no surprise that local authorities have conservation officers in place to help guide the process. Before making an application, it is wise to talk with these experts about your goals, get an outline of what is acceptable and any adaptations to proposals which might be required. This could not only speed up the application process, by making the first application more likely to be approved, but it will also save the cost of re-drafts and re-submissions.
It also helps to be aware of why the property is listed. This, in itself, can give a strong indication of what might or might not be acceptable. Most importantly of all, due to the legal repercussions of unauthorised work, home owners should take the correct advice and get the relevant permissions even for repairs at the earliest stage possible. By doing things "by the book, the process of making changes to a listed building need not be hugely complex or any more stressful than for a non-listed property. Owning such a home is something that should after all be celebrated, rather than being a cause for worry.
Please note: This article is intended as guidance only and does not constitute advice, financial or otherwise. No responsibility for loss occasioned/costs arising as a result of any act/failure to act on the basis of this article can be accepted by Latimer Hinks.
Martin Williamson is Head of Residential Property at Latimer Hinks Solicitors in Darlington. Latimer Hinks has a team of around 40 people serving private and corporate clients. For further information: www.latimerhinks.co.uk or call 01325 341500.