Buying a Listed Property
One of Britain’s finest national assets is its priceless heritage of important buildings,
from castles, mansions and cottages to Art Deco factories and Victorian railway
stations – even certain telephone boxes and public lavatories have their valued
place in the built environment.
Historic buildings are a precious reminder of the work and way of life of earlier
generations and are part of the British national and regional identity. Scotland
and Northern Ireland have their own procedures, but in England, English Heritage
has the task of identifying and protecting this important inheritance. They do this
is by listing - recommending buildings for inclusion on statutory lists of buildings
of 'special architectural or historic interest' compiled by the Secretary of State
for Culture, Media and Sport.
Buildings can be listed because of age, rarity, architectural merit, and method
of construction. Occasionally a building is selected because it has played a part
in the life of a famous person, or as the scene for an important event. An interesting
group of buildings - such as a model village or a square - may also be listed.
According to its relative importance each listed building is given a grade to show
its particular architectural or historic interest. Grade I buildings are of exceptional
interest, Grade II* are particularly important buildings of more than special interest
and Grade II are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them.
Listing currently protects 500,000 or so buildings, of which the majority - over
90% - are Grade II.
The older a building is, the more likely it is to be listed. All buildings built
before 1700 which survive in anything like their original condition are listed,
as are most built between 1700 and 1840. After that date the criteria become tighter
with time, so that post-1945 buildings have to be exceptionally important to be
Does a special listing improve the value of a property? Not really. A property worthy
of listing has an inherent value that isn’t increased because it has been formally
Some owners and occupiers of listed property will occasionally admit that having
their home listed is not always a good thing. Listing ensures that the architectural
and historic interest of the building is carefully considered before any alterations,
either outside or inside, are agreed. Altering or demolishing a listed building
without consent can attract heavy penalties. In addition to the cost of putting
things back as they were, the penalty for unauthorised alteration or demolition
of a listed building, from a Magistrate’s Court, is up to 6 months in prison and/or
a fine of up to £20,000. From the Crown Court this can be up to 2 years in prison
and/or an unlimited fine.
When buying a listed property it is best before purchase to check exactly what may
and may not be done. It is a rare buyer who is happy to leave a recently-bought
house exactly as the previous occupants left it, so a word with a chartered surveyor
or with the local planning office first can save a great deal of money and upset,
not to mention a spell in a prison which, ironically, if it is old enough may itself
But despite the duty of an owner or occupier to help protect the integrity of a
listed building it is a small price to pay for the pleasure that such a property
can give, not only to its occupant, but also to countless passers by.
to Top (↑)