At Highhouse Insurance we deal with and specialise in covering all types of Listed Building Insurance including Listed Tenement Blocks in Scotland. Our insurance covers a wide range of perils suitable to obtain a mortgage and unlike some insurers; we are also able to cover buildings of non-standard construction.
We have a good understanding of the problems faced by the Listed Building owner and are always willing to speak to owners or persons that are contemplating buying this special type of property. This article looks at the effects of listing a building as well as planning and maintenance.
The effects of Listing a Building
Owning a listed building comes with many responsibilities and owners can find themselves as unpaid guardians of our nation’s heritage. Certainly buying a listed building is not something you would undertake likely particularly if you have designs on making changes either internally or to the fabric of the structure.
As soon as you take on ownership of a listed property you realise that things may not be as straight forward as owning a non-listed property, particularly if you want to make alterations or upgrades to the property.
Whatever grade of listing a building has, any demolition or alteration, both within the building and externally, will need consent if it is to affect the architectural or historic character of the property. The definition of what exactly is meant by the term ‘building’ is not always clear cut. A building does not always stop existing because it has been taken down and an order to reconstruct it may be issued.
The list of structures that have been called buildings includes telephone boxes, drinking troughs and sculptures. The situation is further complicated by the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 which enables the development of adjoining sites affecting the setting of a listed building to be looked at as part of the Act.
In the definition of a listed building the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 includes any structure or object within the curtilage of the building even if it is not fixed to the building as long as it was there pre 1st July 1948. The Act refers to the preservation of any feature of the building consisting of a man- made object or a structure fixed to the building. The term ‘fixed’ is understood to mean physically attached to and it, therefore, includes fireplaces, shutters and balconies for example. The legal guidelines are not completely clear and state for example that statues that are a part of the architectural concept are fixtures although statues placed there to be seen in their own right are not. The same reasoning may be applied to tapestries and chandeliers.
The position regarding the painting of listed buildings is inconsistent. Consideration is given as to whether painting affects the character of the building. Painting a surface that was previously unpainted would need consent but repainting using identical colour paint would not. However, if there is any change at all in the texture of the paint consent will be required. Due to uncertainties such as these, some areas have sought to introduce some controls of their own, the City of York for example introduced a by law to control the painting of buildings within the city walls and the importance of the colour of a façade is not only limited to paint colour but also to any changes in the colour of the glass in the windows.
The penalties for unauthorised work on a listed building upon summary conviction are a fine of up to £20,000 and/or imprisonment not exceeding three months. On indictment imprisonment may be up to twelve months and the fine is unlimited. The fine is required to reflect the financial gain arising from the offence. As well as a fine and/or imprisonment there will also be an order to reinstate the works, the cost of which may exceed the fine. Failure to take action to rectify a breach may be penalised on a daily basis.
Listing usually involves an increase in the annual maintenance cost and, consequently, a high service charge to occupiers of dwellings within listed buildings. Insurance costs are likely to be higher reflecting the increased cost of reinstatement, and there may also be additional security requirements if the building contains valuable fixtures and fittings. Administration costs increase with possible disaster plans to minimise loss in the event of fire or explosion and there will be increased costs associated with obtaining consent with the local authority. The work is likely to be more expensive because one-off items need to be made to match the existing ones. The time it takes to get the necessary approval can mean that the work is delayed and the use of the property may be affected in the meantime.
Although the listing of a building may have some burdens there are also some advantages with regard to approved alterations. These may have some tax relief and your accountant or local authority should be able to assist you with an enquiry.
Listed building consent
In Section 7 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 it is stated that nobody may “execute or cause to be executed any works for the demolition of a listed building or for its alteration or extension in any manner which would affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest, unless the works are authorised.” Consequently, Listed Building Consent (LBC) is needed when alterations and repairs to listed buildings are to be made. Planning permission will also be necessary for any extension and for some external alterations. Approval under Building Regulations is usually required too, for both internal and external works. Listed building consent may also be needed for any work on buildings or structures within the grounds of a listed building.
It is essential to carry out routine maintenance of a listed building in order to avoid major works or repairs. Wherever possible like should be replaced by like as traditional materials give listed buildings their unique character. Existing materials on the building should be repaired rather than being replaced, and where work is unavoidable it should avoid damaging old work. Features that are missing should only be replaced when there is evidence that they were there originally.
Listed building consent is required for any demolition, extension, alteration or stone clearing which affects the character of the listed building in any way at all. This may mean that often very minor works, such as door replacement, will need consent. If there is any doubt as to whether consent is required then the Conservation Planner at the Local Authority should be consulted. Examples of works which will need LBC are conservatories, porches, extensions, demolition work, repairs made in materials differing from the original materials, the sandblasting of both internal and external stonework, the removal or alteration of internal doors or panels or fireplaces, exposing timbers that were previously hidden, painting brickwork, installation of satellite dishes, the fitting of new boilers or ovens that need a flue, replacing windows and making internal partitions where none existed previously. This is not a complete list and the Local Authority Conservation Officer should always be asked if LBC is a necessity before work is carried out.
Anyone who carries out work to a listed building without getting the required permission first where the character of the building is affected will, if convicted, be guilty of a criminal offence and this can result in a large fine or in imprisonment. Enforcement action may be taken to restore the building to its original state. There is no time restriction under which these proceedings may be taken. Often the failure to get consent is discovered upon the sale of a listed building. Before buying a listed building it is, therefore, important to check with a solicitor that all works that have been carried out have had the necessary consent, as, if you purchase a listed building with any unauthorised works you then become liable for them. To obtain your quotation for insurance for a listed building including homes with thatched roofs, call Highhouse insurance today.
On occasion it may be necessary to undertake emergency works on a listed building. In such cases the work should only be done if afterwards you are able to prove the following:
- That the emergency works were needed with urgency due to health, safety or the preservation of the building in question.
- That it was impossible in any way to provide temporary support whilst Listed building consent was sought.
- That the works carried out were the least that could be done as a matter of emergency.
- That notice in writing which explains in detail exactly how and why the works were done is given to the Local authority as soon as reasonably possible.
The owners and occupants of listed buildings are responsible for maintaining them in a good state of repair. Any listed buildings that have been allowed to fall into disrepair may be added to the Buildings At Risk Register and this will mean that the state of the building will be closely monitored and, if it does not improve, the Local Authority can ask that an Enforcement Notice be served for all the repairs to be carried out.
Before buying a listed building it is essential to comprehend that permission for any alterations may not be granted. However, it is also worth knowing that any new works to listed buildings that have received consent may be eligible for zero rated VAT, meaning that the VAT can be reclaimed. Work done to maintain or repair the listed building are not eligible to be zero rated.
At Highhouse Insurance, we have excellent relationships with our underwriters and a real understanding of this building type, which enables us to offer excellent premiums for both Buildings & Contents for Listed Buildings.