Are you on the list? What rules are there for owners of Grade I and II listed properties?

The Old Fire Engine House in Elm.

The Old Fire Engine House in Elm. - Credit: Archant

Owning a listed home is a unique experience; but it can come with pros and cons.

In Hertfordshire alone there are just under 600 listed buildings, predating 1840. Given the area’s rich history, this may not come as a surprise. England is home to roughly 370,000 structures protected by listing, ranging from churches to war memorials to houses. Anything given this classification will be on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest.

As fascinating as it can be to own a listed property, it comes with its complications too; and homeowners can often be met with a number of hurdles to get past before they can make changes to a listed residence. This even applies to unforeseen repairs – if a blustery day rips the vintage tiles off your Tudor roofing, a quick trip to B&Q isn’t going to cut it; and those that haven’t abided by the relevant laws have been known to face prosecution in the past.

Around 20 percent of listed buildings in Hertfordshire are categorised as Grade I. This means they are defined as being buildings “of exceptional interest”, quite often found to be “internationally important”. Despite the reasonably high number of Grade I structures in the county, this category is in the minority in England and Wales as a whole (2.5 percent to be precise). Grade II* is a lesser known category, granted to buildings of “particular importance” and “of more than special interest”. Owners of private residential listed properties are most likely to have a Grade II listed building - defined as “nationally important and of special interest”.

Whatever the listing, if you are considering purchasing a listed property, or if you already own one, it’s best to be knowledgeable on the laws surrounding them.

Insurance - this can be an unforeseen snag, so it’s important to check the premiums with regards to a potential listed house purchase. Even settled residents of a listed home should compare insurance providers at time of renewal. Insurance premiums can be higher on this type of home due to the particular and often expensive materials needed for maintenance on a building of a certain era. Specialist insurers are best equipped for this kind of property and a survey is always recommended before a listed purchase.

Demolition - it’s probably not a good idea to obtain a listed property with a grand plan to demolish it and use the land for a new design. Buildings are listed for a reason, and it’s unlikely that a property protected by the government will be approved for this. Even in cases where a structure has had to be deconstructed for safety reasons, the building will be taken apart delicately and pieced back together elsewhere, rather than scrapped completely. A famous example of this occurred in Harpenden in 1928 when Flowton Priory was relocated to Herts having spent the previous 403 years in a village in Suffolk.

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Extensions and alterations - it’s more likely that a listed home will be granted permission to renovate or improve, but the rules are still tight. If you dream of tacking a shimmering glass conservatory onto the back of your Jacobean farmhouse then plans will need to adhere to strict rules (if they even get past the approval stage to begin with). Additions are more likely to be green lit if they retain the style of the era of your property. Hertfordshire has had success with old-meets-new design projects. Local restoration architects J G Matthews Ltd have a vast portfolio - a particular favourite being their barn conversion of 2011 which not only involved specific green oak timbers and sheep’s wool insulation, but required additional care due to the protected bats and newts on the land.

Repairs - damage to a house is more often than not unprecedented. Older buildings are potentially more susceptible to weathering due to their age, and it’s less likely to be damaged by something the owner has done. In some cases, homeowners may be entitled to English Heritage grants for urgent major repairs.

Despite these special regulations, a historic home is a unique thing to own, and the intricacies and individuality of its style will be something very special. Famous Herts listed properties include Harpenden Hall, the Medieval Westwick Cottage and a Grade II converted Victorian water tower in Hertford.