Here's what need to know if you're buying a listed building in Bristol
The Clifton Suspension Bridge built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and completed in 1839 is Bristol's most famous landmark. It is also Grade I listed, as are Bristol Cathedral, Clifton Hill House and Bristol Temple Meads station. Bristol is home to a huge range of listed buildings, and for the people living in them they offer the chance to reside in a building of architectural and historical significance, which is a rare privilege.
Giving a property a listed status is a way to preserve it for the good of the nation.
A structure is listed if it is of significant architectural interest or significant historical interest, or a combination of the two.
There are three grades of being listed for structures in England and Wales:
Grade I are structures of exceptional interest while Grade II* are particularly important buildings of more than special interest. Grade II are buildings that are of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them.
According to English Heritage, listed buildings make up just two per cent of English listed building register of which there are over 370,000 entries. About 93 per cent are listed as Grade II, five and a half percent are listed as Grade II* and two and half percent are listed as Grade I.
On it's website English Heritage states: “All buildings built before 1700 which survive in anything like their original condition are listed, as are most of those built between 1700 and 1840.
“Particularly careful selection is required for buildings from the period after 1945. Usually a building has to be over 30 years old to be eligible for listing.”
What does being listed actually mean for buyers/tenants? It means the building is protected – not just on the outside but also on the inside. It means that owners must ensure its upkeep and not make any unauthorised alterations. You can’t suddenly tack a plastic conservatory onto the exterior of your Jacobean mansion or swap the windows for fresh set of double glazing.
Does the building have to be a house? No, it can be any permanent structure - a barn, a bridge, a gravestone, even telephone boxes and road signs have been listed in the past.
Can you alter a listed building? You cannot alter a listed building without getting Listed Building Consent from your local conservation officer, who is usually employed by your local council. If you’re buying a listed building you have to especially careful to make sure the previous owners didn’t carry out any unauthorised work. If they did, it’s the new buyer’s job (i.e. yours) to put it right.
Can any changes or extensions be made? They can, but only if the conservation officer approves. You can expect them to insist on the use of bricks, tiles or other materials that match the original. If you want to make changes to your listed property best practice is to work with the conservation officer and use architects and craftsmen experienced in conservation work.
Do listed homes need regular maintenance? Yes. Often more than a non-listed property might need. Your to-do list should read as follows: check the roof, make sure gutters and drainpipes are clear, repaint external woodwork, replace putty around windows, carefully detach all creepers, clean chimneys twice a year, re-point brick and stonework, service all heating and electrical equipment, clean and repair plasters, renders, stone and brickwork. It is also advised that home owners always employ an expert to ensure any work is carried out properly and to the required standards.
Are owners entitled to any funding help with repairs and maintenance? Repairs to a listed property are quite likely going to be higher than on a more modern house simply because of the expertise and materials required. Historic England, the public body that looks after England’s historic environment, do however occasionally offers grants to owners of historic buildings if they are in need of repair.
They are usually offered in situations where, without a grant, a project would not be able to go ahead.
What about insurance? As the house must be repaired using traditional methods and materials, the policy will be more expensive than for a modern house. The sum insured should cover the cost of re-installing the entire house.
Where can I get friendly advice? The Listed Property Owners Club (LPOC) website, on www.lpoc.co.uk or by calling 01795 844939. Membership costs £55 per year for advice and news on listed properties.
Can you get VAT relief? A good source of advice for VAT is The Listed Property Owners Club ( www.lpoc.co.uk ). It has a full-time VAT adviser, who can guide you through the process.
*If you are thinking of buying a listed property and would like to discuss a Building Survey please contact us for a quote*