The prospect of buying a listed building means you can take ownership of a property that has years of history attached to it, but that obviously comes with a lot of challenges associated with the restoration and upkeep of an old building. You’ll also still have to adhere to the legalese governing the listed building system.

What is a listed building and what you can do to it?

A listed building is one which has been included on the National Heritage List for having ‘special architectural or historic interest.’ Any owner of such a building is responsible for the maintenance of the building’s character, which can include the outside as well, such as the garden.

A building has to be more than 30 years old to get listed and selection for listing becomes rather picky after the period running from 1700 to 1840, from which most building are listed. Any surviving building which was constructed before 1700 and resembles something close to its original state is listed.

You can enjoy the building if you purchase it, altering and extending it to your heart’s desire, but planning guidance is required from the government. Otherwise the listed building enjoys some kind of protection from harmful development or demolition. Historic England has some great advice for listed building buyers who are considering making alterations.

Your go-to person will be the conservation officer, who is an employee of the local council with a role of maintaining the character of your building. You can get advice from them on the materials and techniques you can make use of to make any changes to the property. There are no fees involved in getting the consent required for any and all work, but it is a criminal offence to make alterations to a listed building without consent.

Caring for a listed building

To combat the very common problem with damp which old buildings may develop, check for overflows as well as broken and blocked downpipes and gutters. More serious problems will probably require a surveyor.

Preventative maintenance can be carried out for possible flooding, such as adding air brick covers and door guards.

Any repair and renovation work with regards to decay or damage needs to conform with the regulations set out by your conservation officer and for unused or part-unused properties you may be forced to carry out building repairs if the required repair work is deemed a necessity for the preservation of the building.

Saving energy in a listed building

The heating in most listed buildings can be upgraded with the addition of a much more energy efficient modern boiler and the attic and other rooms can also be insulated. Larger works need planning advice and you may not be allowed to install modern style double glazing as this could severely alter the building’s appearance.

Insurance for listed buildings

Specialised insurance will be required to provide the adequate cover for a listed building as most standard home insurers don’t cover listed buildings. Specialists in insurance for listed buildings such as the likes of Lycetts provide some practical advice around the legal protection of listed buildings.