Wealden District Council
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Purchasing a Listed Building

What is Listing?

All listed buildings are contained within the National Heritage List for England, which is managed by Historic England. The list generally contains a brief description of the main façade of the listed building, but it should be noted that this is for identification purposes only and that the listing designation covers the entire building, inside and out, not just the exterior, fixtures and fittings, and any buildings or structures within its curtilage that pre-date 1st July 1948.

Listed building consent

Listed Building Consent is required to carry out any internal and external alterations to the building regardless of whereabouts they are within or on the building. For further information please refer to Historic England’s advice on Living in a Listed property.

Pre-application advice

If your decision to purchase a listed building depends on whether you will be allowed to undertake works for alteration of the building, you are strongly advised to seek pre-application advice  prior to purchase. This will give you an indication of whether the works you are proposing are likely to be supported or not.

Unauthorised works

As a new owner you would be liable for any unauthorised works carried out by a previous owner to a listed building.

As part of the legal search process when purchasing a listed building, a thorough check should be made of the ‘planning history’ of the building to ensure that all alterations, extensions or repairs which have been carried out since the building was listed have received Listed Building Consent, or to see whether a Certificate of Lawfulness of Proposed Works (pdf) to a listed building has been submitted.

It is important to check the ‘approved plans’ for any previous consent, to make sure that the proposals as shown on these approved plans match up to what is actually ‘on the ground’.

You can check the planning history of the building online on our website for applications from 2005 onwards.

For older applications please email planning.information@wealden.gov.uk to enable the relevant records to be made available.

If you suspect that works have been carried out to the interior or exterior of the building by previous owners but without the benefit of Listed Building Consent, please alert the Council by email enforcement.environment@wealden.gov.uk.

Compliance check

If you still wish to purchase the building, you should commission a ‘Compliance Check’ undertaken by a historic buildings specialist. A compliance check involves a survey of the building to ascertain the extent and nature of any unauthorised works.

The Council are not permitted to specifically recommend any particular company, but useful information can be found on the following websites:

Resolving any unauthorised works

Once you have undertaken a compliance check to identify all the works that may have been undertaken to the listed building without consent, you will need to take further advice from your solicitor.

You may have two options open to you:

  • To require the current owners to try to regularise the situation by undertaking works, with listed building consent, to remedy the situation. It does not follow that consent will be granted for the works already undertaken, and the Council may require alternative appropriate works to remedy the situation. This will result in considerable delay to the sale of the property.
  • Negotiate the sale price to enable you to undertake the works yourself after purchase, with listed building consent.

If you choose the latter option, prior to exchanging contracts, you are strongly advised to request pre-application advice to discuss the findings of the compliance check and receive advice on how the situation can be remedied, and the resulting works that will be required. This will enable you to decide whether to proceed with the purchase of the property and investigate the costs of undertaking such works.

After purchase

If you purchase the property, one of the first things you should do is to take a full photographic record of both the outside and inside of the property (i.e. before your furniture has been installed or the property redecorated). This will help to settle any future questions as to the condition and appearance of the property before you moved in, including all fixtures and fittings.