Homes with heritage: What it really means to own a listed property
- Credit: Archant
The borough of Camden has more than 5,600 listed buildings from different eras, and in varying architectural styles, ranging from the 11th century St Pancras Old Church to the Alexandra Road Estate built between 1972 and 1978.
The older and rarer a building, the more likely it is to be listed, but more modern buildings of outstanding interest can also be listed. Famous examples include the BT Tower, The Royal Festival Hall and the East Stand of Arsenal FC’s former Highbury stadium.
To become listed, a building must satisfy various criteria. Grade II denotes structures of “special interest,” Grade II* “more than special interest,” and Grade I “exceptional interest.”
Of 500,000 listed buildings in the UK, 92 per cent are Grade II, 5.5 per cent are Grade II* and just 2.5 per cent Grade I.
The beauty of listed buildings is undeniable even to the most cold-blooded modernist, but what does it really mean to own one today?
Owning a listed building can be a great investment as they hold a special status and often a unique beauty, making them more valuable. You are effectively buying part of British heritage and estate agents are quick to point out a property’s listed status on their particulars.
Frank Townsend, from Savills estate agents, Hampstead, said: “The phrase Listed Building strikes fear in some people and relief in others. The reality is that thanks to buildings being listed, the UK has managed to preserve some of the most iconic and historical properties in the land, having lost so many others to demolition by man or war. However, there is so often a common misconception that a listed building (depending on the grade) cannot be touched and in some way or another has to be preserved in aspic.
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“We are lucky in Hampstead to have such an intact housing stock when it comes to listed property and I think for the most part this underpins the importance of a building and ultimately its value”.
Carrying out unauthorised alterations to a listed building is a criminal offence. It could also lead to a bill of thousands of pounds to restore the building to its original state.
The Listed Property Owners’ Club is an advice service dedicated to helping members get the most from their homes by providing detailed advice, information and support for just about every conceivable issue associated with ownership.
The club was started more than 20 years ago by Peter Anslow, who learnt a tremendous amount about owning a listed building from buying a 17th century Kentish barn in the 1960s (which is still being lovingly restored to this day)
“Any problems that arise with owning a listed building have been, without exception, lack of knowledge and it was on this basis that we structured the club”, Peter says.
“There are approximately half a million listed homes in the UK, all of which are subject to strict regulations on planning, alterations and maintenance. However, legislation doesn’t stand still and owners of listed homes need to be kept informed about their rights and responsibilities. This is the primary purpose of LPOC.”
Peter’s passion for heritage and helping listed building owners extended to parliament in 2013 as he began a campaign for owner’s rights, following a difficult few years that included the VAT relief on approved alterations scrapped. LPOC continue to lobby Westminster for a reduction in VAT for work on listed buildings from 20 to five per cent.
Peter said: “There are 635 listed buildings in Hampstead and Kilburn. LPOC is in contact with each candidate for the Hampstead and Kilburn seat to encourage them to join our All Party Political Group should they win at the election. So come election time this could equate to more than 1,200 voters.”
Peter says that before buying a listed property, buyers should think about any unauthorised work by previous owners, as the new owner becomes responsible no matter when the unauthorised work was carried out.
He said: “This is difficult to check, but for new owners it’s best to include protection under house insurance. Insurance will be more expensive for listed buildings because of the need for original materials to be used, but the main problem centres on claim for say fire damage, it’s not the owner or the insurance company that decides how to reinstate – it’s the conservation officer. He has total power and is not interested in the cost, his only interest is to rebuild as it was originally. Therefore special insurance is vital.”
So if you own a listed building, Peter says your relationship with the conservation officer is key.
“If you want to extend or make alterations to your property, owners must liaise with conservation officer at the local council before making changes. The best route is to set up a meeting with the officer – give him/her a cup of coffee and discuss what you want to do. The officer will then contribute his requirements before spending lots of time and money on a scheme. Always try to work with the conservation officer.”
For more information on owning a listed property visit lpoc.co.uk