If you're the lucky owner of a listed building you're also in the privileged position of owning a piece of history. Sounds exciting doesn't it? Well, along with this prestige does come a few challenges, because as the owner of a listed building you’re responsible for maintaining it.
What does listed mean?
According to Historic England, a listed building in England is something with historic and architectural interest. The level of importance with regards to listing is as follows:
1) Grade 2 - A building with special interest – the most common type of listing for home owners
2) Grade 2* - A building with more than special interest
3) Grade 1 - A building with exceptional national and international interest
If a property is listed, it's being protected from unsupervised change. Ultimately, it's good to keep a building looking as close to possible to its original state, so that we can enjoy our history.
But, it does create some practicality issues. As much as it might sound very romantic to live in a stone built, thatched cottage with an inglenook fireplace, no electricity or running water, the novelty will soon wear off. And if you want to install modern day conveniences, this is where the listing restrictions apply.
You'll probably need to work with the local authority to make changes to the property. They're the property's 'guardians', in a way, and are there to protect its integrity. Don't worry too much though, there are many things you can do when your property is listed, you could alter, adapt and maybe even extend, just under supervision.
How does this differ in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales?
In Wales you’ll need consent from the local planning authority then apply to the planning division of the Welsh government for consent. In most cases papers are then referred to Cadw, which looks after heritage for the government.
Some local planning authorities in Wales have permission to agree consent for Grade 2 listed buildings without needing to notify Cadw. From March 2016 these planning authorities are Monmouthshire County Council, Carmarthenshire County Council, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Pembrokeshire County Council and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority.
In Scotland, the local authority is the main point of contact for listed building consent. They will consider applications in line with guidance from Historic Environment Scotland.
In Northern Ireland, buildings are graded from B2 and B1 to B+, and for an outstandingly grand building, Grade A. Listed buildings are buildings that the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) have decided are of ‘special architectural or historic interest’. Any plans to change your home must be agreed by your local council, who follow advice from NIEA.
Do I need special Grade 2 listed building insurance?
Listed building home insurance is not as straightforward as normal house insurance and you may find that you're restricted in the amount of policies on offer. There are some specialist listed building insurance companies, but some normal home insurance companies will accept listed buildings too. Or they may have their own listed building insurance – either way you'll probably find that your premiums are higher than a non-listed house.
There are a few factors that could affect the insurance:
1) Your rebuild cost has to take into account that the materials used may be difficult or expensive to source, and you may need a specialist tradesman.
2) The nature of old properties means they haven't been built to our modern standards. For example, they're often damp, no matter how much you try to deal with it. Plus, ancient drainage can cause problems, which insurers recognise. That said, though, the fact that the house is still standing is testament to the original builders!
3) Many listed buildings have a thatched roof and this too can have implications for your premium. Insurance for thatched properties is usually more expensive than insurance on a standard build property. Thatched roofs need re-thatching every 10-15 years. They can also be costly to replace or repair if they become damaged. There are extra fire precautions, too, that have to be put into place, particularly if you use the fireplace.
All this aside, living in a listed building is still pretty amazing and many people dream of the chance. If you budget carefully and work with the right people you can be proud of the fact that you're helping preserve the country's heritage.