Listed building with large garden


The responsibilities of owning a listed property

What you need to know

Listed buildings are a part of our national heritage, so what do you need to consider if you're looking to own one?

What is a listed building?

Things to be aware of before making changes

Find out the history of your building

Make sure you're properly covered

A listed building is a thing of rarity and, more subjectively, beauty. It’s a piece of history that you can have the privilege of living in; but make sure you understand exactly what you are taking on before you make one home.

What is a listed building?

In England, where there are 377,587 listed buildings (as of 2016), a grading system is in place:


Percentage of listed buildings




Buildings are of exceptional interest



Buildings are particularly important buildings of more than special interest



Buildings are of special interest


In Wales there are over 29,000 buildings and structures listed as Buildings of Special or Historic Interest and these are graded in the same way as in England.

In Scotlandwhere there are around 47,000 listed buildings, three categories are used:


Percentage of listed buildings




Buildings of national or international importance (either architectural or historic) or examples of some particular period, style or building type in good condition



Buildings of regional or greater local importance; or major examples of some particular period, style or building type, which may have been altered



Buildings of local importance; less emphasis of any period, style or building type, as originally constructed or moderately altered; and simple, traditional buildings that group well with other listed buildings


In Northern Ireland, where over 8,500 buildings are listed, a grading system – that differs from the one used in England – is followed:




Special buildings of national importance (including grand buildings and good examples of some important style or date)


Special buildings that might have merited A status, but have minor detracting features such as impurities of design, or lower quality additions or alterations. This grade also applies to buildings that stand out from grade B1 buildings because of exceptional interiors or some other features

B1 and B2

Special buildings of more local importance or good examples of some period of style. Some degree of alteration or imperfection may be acceptable

Things to be aware of before making changes

  • Your local planning department should be your first contact point with any potential changes to your property
  • Building work on any listed building – including painting or simple repairs in some cases – will usually need a special form of consent called listed building consent (LBC). Planning permission and, depending on the location, conservation area consent, may also be required
  • It can take months to get planning permission, so it is important to plan ahead and to wait until approval is given, even with small renovation jobs
  • Carrying out unauthorised work on a listed building is illegal and those who do could face prosecution, as well as the high costs of returning the building to its original state
  • Listing applies both inside and out and anything that is considered a 'material change' to a historically significant feature could be rejected. 

Even if you think you are able to make renovations or changes without restrictions you should remember:

  • When removing an internal wall, it may be necessary to keep at least part of the original one, for example
  • Upgrading the current kitchen or bathroom is rarely an issue, but installing new pipes or cutting into historic beams or floors may be. Externally, only certain paint colours or types may be permissible. Even the doorknob may be protected if the front door is considered a fundamental part of the building’s authentic character
  • Small changes could be significant too. Be aware that small alterations may be considered by planners enough to add up to a fundamental change to the building’s character, so seek advice before adding a skylight to the roof or a burglar alarm, for example
  • A modern extension may be allowed, provided it doesn’t dominate the original structure. You will also need to take into consideration how new meets old in terms of windows, doors and walls. 

Find out the history of your building

Information about the building’s history and the construction materials that were originally used can be found via:

Make sure you're properly covered

Owning and maintaining a listed building can be costly, so it’s important to make sure you’re not underinsured when it comes to your Home Insurance policy.

  • Consider any outbuildings or boundary walls that would be costly to repair or rebuild. It is important to check thoroughly that your valuation reflects your entire property accurately
  • The cost of repairing or rebuilding a listed building after it has been damaged could be significantly higher than a non-listed building, due to the requirement of using specialist materials or craftspeople to carry out the work
  • Always check with your insurer how much cover you have.

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