Many people are attracted to the idea of living in an older property. Some appreciate the thought of owning a home with an interesting history. Others like the high ceilings that were more common in older houses. Many admire the craftsmanship and building techniques used to build traditional homes.
However, the older your property, the more likely it is to be a listed building. With listing comes a range of responsibilities and restrictions, which can sometimes be confusing to navigate. To help you, we’ve created this guide to Grade II listed building restrictions, showing you what you can and can’t do to your home – and how best to insure it.
- What is a Grade II listed building?
- How old are listed buildings?
- How do buildings get listed?
- What is listed building consent?
- What happens if I don’t get listed building consent?
- What can you do to a Grade 2 listed building?
- What do I need listed building consent for?
- What can’t you do to a Grade II listed building?
- Do I need special insurance for a listed building?
- Does it cost me more to insure a Grade II listed building?
- Grade II listed building FAQs
If a building in England is considered by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport to be of special architectural interest, it is ‘listed’ in one of three categories:
- Grade I buildings. These are of exceptional interest and only comprise 2.5% of all listed buildings.
- Grade II* buildings. These are particularly important buildings of more than special interest. They make up 5.8% of listed buildings.
- Grade II buildings. This class is for buildings of special interest that warrant every effort to preserve them. Most listed buildings fall into this category.
Each of the devolved nations have a similar system for listed buildings.
Wales uses the same three categories, and Welsh Ministers are required to compile and maintain the lists.
Scotland also has a listed building system, with properties falling into categories A, B, and C.
In Northern Ireland, a building is listed if it is of ‘special architectural or historic interest’ according to Section 80 of the Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011. Categories A, B+, B, B1, and B2 are used to classify listed buildings.
There are listed buildings of nearly all ages. In general, all buildings built before 1700 are listed as long as they are largely in their original condition. Similarly, most buildings that date from 1700 to 1850 are listed. Buildings newer than this are listed if they are considered to be of special architectural or historic interest. Buildings under 30 years old are rarely listed, mainly because they aren’t deemed to have ‘stood the test of time’.
In England, buildings become listed via two main routes.
- By nominating a building for listing (anyone can do this)
- Via Historic England’s strategic programme of listing priorities.
In both cases, Historic England recommends that the Secretary of State lists a building. The Minister then makes the final decision. The devolved nations also have similar systems by which buildings become listed.
If you own a listed building, you must get listed building consent if you want to make significant changes to the property. This is because there are strict rules about the work you can undertake, especially if it affects the building’s character or appearance.
You need to apply to your local authority to get listed building consent. If your alterations also need planning permission, you must also apply for this.
If you carry out works for which you should have obtained listed building consent, you are committing a criminal offence. Not only can your local council make you reverse or change the work you have done (at your own expense), you could also be prosecuted. The maximum penalty includes imprisonment and unlimited fines.
On the whole, minor repairs and maintenance are excluded from needing listed building consent. So, for example, if you repaint your kitchen, you probably won’t need consent.
However, if you do anything that is deemed to be a ‘material change’, you’ll need consent. This could include something as simple as repainting external doors and windows in a different colour.
Before undertaking any work, whether you think it is minor or would be deemed a ‘material change’, you should always consult your local authority first.
There are many ‘material changes’ for which you need listed building consent. However, this list of common projects should give you an insight into what does and does not need consent.
- Replacing windows or doors. You will need consent even if the replacements have the same design, materials, and finish. If you want to install double glazing, you’ll undoubtedly need permission, although it’s often more likely you’ll get approval for installing secondary glazing instead.
- Painting a building’s exterior. Consent is required if the building hasn’t been painted before or if a new colour will alter its appearance or character.
- Roof repairs / replacement. You don’t normally need consent if you use the same material for the roof covering and re-use existing tiles, slates, or pantiles wherever possible. You may need consent if you intend to change the roof timbers, structure, or alter the roof’s appearance. If your building is thatched and you intend to replace the roof with a different type of thatch, that counts as a material change, and you’ll need consent.
- Adding a satellite dish. You will need permission to install a satellite dish on either your Grade II listed building or any building within the property’s curtilage (the land immediately surrounding it). You may also need planning permission.
- Erecting a new building or structure within the listed building’s curtilage. You don’t normally need consent for this if it is going to be standalone, but you will need to check that the new structure won’t affect any garden features which are listed. You may also need planning permission.
- Building an extension, porch, or conservatory. Attaching a structure to the building, or curtilage buildings, will need consent and potentially planning permission too.
- Creating a fence, gate, or wall. You need listed building consent if any of these are attached to the main building or a curtilage building. Planning permission may be necessary too.
- Exposing timbers or brickwork. Consent will be needed.
- Adding solar panels or wind turbines. Listed building consent will be needed; if approved, installations must not disturb or destroy historic materials and must be reversible.
There are many things you should not do to a listed building and which you are very unlikely to get consent for. These include:
- Removing architectural features such as fireplaces, panelling, decorative stonework, or mullions.
- Stone cleaning (unless there are exceptional circumstances).
- Adding pipes, flues, or alarm boxes to the front of the property.
- Removing boundary walls or gates.
- Repointing using the incorrect materials. A lot of Grade II listed buildings use lime mortar, so you should never repoint using materials such as hard cement mortar.
- Removing chimney stacks or pots.
- Painting or rendering stonework.
No, you don’t need special home insurance for your Grade II listed building. However, you need to tell your insurer that your property is listed as some insurers won’t provide cover for listed buildings as they can be expensive and time consuming to repair and may require the skills of specialist trades and craftsmen.
It doesn’t directly cost more to insure a Grade II listed building; the same factors will be used to determine the premium you pay as are used for a non-listed building. However, because it is usually more expensive to rebuild listed properties, the sum insured is likely to be higher, which can affect the premium you pay. Some insurers will ask to see a professional rebuilding cost survey to ensure the sum insured is adequate and takes into consideration any special features, materials used, professional fees, and other factors. This will also help you avoid the risk of being underinsured.
Can I decorate a Grade II listed building?
Yes, to an extent. Internal painting rarely needs listed building consent unless your property has a historic decorative scheme that needs to be preserved. You should not remove any original features when you redecorate.
Can I put a new bathroom in a Grade II listed building?
Yes, but you’ll normally need consent. Seek advice from your local authority before undertaking any work.
Can I put a new kitchen in a Grade II listed building?
Yes, but you will almost certainly need consent.
Can you get a Grade II listing removed?
Yes, but it is a lengthy process. Common reasons include delisting buildings that have been destroyed or that owners believe have been wrongly listed. You can learn more about the delisting process from Historic England.
Can you get grants for Grade II listed buildings?
Yes, but they are relatively rare – the majority of grant funding goes to Grade I and Grade II* listed buildings. Historic England offers details about potential grants. Some local authorities may also provide discretionary grants.
Can you get a mortgage on a Grade II listed building?
Yes, but lenders may see listed buildings as riskier, so they may impose stricter affordability criteria or cap the loan-to-value ratio. You should inform your lender of the property’s listed status when applying.
Can you knock down walls in a Grade II listed building?
Sometimes. You should always consult your local authority first, as you may need listed building consent.
Owning and maintaining a Grade II listed building can mean grappling with a minefield of legislation, but if in doubt, you should always consult your local authority; they have experts on hand to provide you with the correct advice. For more information on home insurance for your property, contact our team at 01603 649650.