If you are planning to buy a listed property or a heritage home in a conservation area, expert legal support is highly advisable. Whilst listed properties and those located in conservation areas tend to be delightful properties packed full of period features and development potential, they do come with their challenges. These can be overcome with the help of conveyancing solicitors with expertise in buying and selling protected properties.
Listed building conveyancing solicitors
By the time you approach our expert team of residential property solicitors, you will likely be financially – and emotionally – committed to your listed property purchase, having perhaps paid for a structural survey or mortgage advice. Led by Peter Westbrook, our experienced Residential Property team is here to advise on listed property and conservation area purchases, and are on hand to guide you through the complexities of buying one of England’s historic properties.
We will make sure the property transaction proceeds as smoothly and as quickly as possible, whilst ensuring that you have all the information you need to make educated decisions about your property purchase. We’ll also ensure you are fully aware of any and all obligations that come with your chosen property.
Buying a listed property
You will probably only buy one listed property in your lifetime. Some conveyancing solicitors will only handle one or maybe two listed property transactions in their careers. For our team, a listed property transaction is a regular – although always special – occurrence. Our experience means that we understand the legal and practical quirks that can crop up with listed property transactions – meaning that we know exactly the right questions to ask.
Grades of listed property
It is important to check which category your listed building purchase falls into on the National Heritage List of properties of historical and/or architectural importance. Listing a building is designed to protect and preserve it from any development that could damage its cultural and historical significance. Once a property has been listed, any previous and current owners must obtain planning consent for any interior or exterior changes, unless the listing is only limited to one aspect of the property.
The three listed building categories are:
- Grade I buildings – properties of exceptional interest or national importance. These are rare, with only 2.5% of listed buildings falling into the Grade I category
- Grade II* buildings – particularly important buildings of more than special interest. These buildings are also a rarity, with only around 5% of listed buildings falling within this category
- Grade II buildings are properties of special interest.
A conservation area is a designated area of historic and architectural interest, where properties must adhere to certain rules and restrictions. Whilst a property in a conservation area will undoubtedly benefit from attractive surroundings and perhaps even a higher value, it is always best to instruct a solicitor to look at the particular conservation area requirements for the property you are buying. Crucially, they can help check that the previous and current owners have not breached the rules, as the current owner of the property is usually held responsible for breaches even if it was committed by a previous owner. They’ll also check that any alterations you may wish to make to the property will be possible. For example, conservation area requirements may mean you will not be allowed to replace existing windows or doors with UPVC or build a porch.
Painstakingly checking the conservation area rules will help ensure that you are aware of any historical breaches before you commit to your purchase, so you can either renegotiate the purchase price or take out insurance to cover you for the consequences of any enforcement action you might face. It will also allow you to adjust your development plans knowing the full extent of the conservation area restrictions.
How Attwaters can help
By their very nature, listed properties and homes in conservation areas are special. And that also goes for the transaction itself; buying this type of property is not routine. With older and historic properties, our solicitors are on hand to thoroughly check that no unauthorised alterations have been carried out by previous owners, by fully investigating all previous additions and ensuring that planning consent was granted for each one. We understand that this level of care and attention to detail is necessary to avoid purchasing a property with an unknown planning problem. It could mean that you as the new owner could be asked to reinstate the property – at your own expense – in accordance with the conservation area or listing requirements.
The care needed with a listed property or the purchase of a home in a conservation area does not end at the boundary of the property. Many older properties are subject to potential legal rights, for example manorial or chancel rights, easements or rights of way. These rights may benefit the property you are interested in – but some do not. Chancel rights mean that you could technically be forced to pay for repairs to your local church roof at some point in the future, while easements and rights of way may give others the right to access parts of your land or property. All these issues are normally resolvable with careful investigation and, if necessary, through the seller or yourself taking out a legal indemnity insurance policy.
Why choose us
Attwaters Jameson Hill has been handling complex property transactions since 1902. The Residential Property team is led by our Partner, Peter Westbrook, who has immense experience in all types of property work including listed properties and houses in conservation areas. Dedicated as they are to an excellent level of client care and service, their attention to detail is second to none and they are committed to ensuring that buyers of listed or conservation properties know everything there is to know about their new home.
Our firm has been awarded the Law Society Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) accreditation in recognition of our exceptional standards of client service, professional expertise and risk management. This accreditation gives you the assurance needed that your special purchase will be handled carefully and efficiently through our use of the latest computerised systems for speed and accuracy combined with old-fashioned personal service.
Planning law expertise
When you are buying a listed building or a property in a conservation area, you may hope to extend or develop it. However, doing so requires care, attention and an in-depth knowledge of town and country planning laws. We work closely with our specialist Planning Law department, who are able to advise on any historical planning issues you may encounter or any proposed projects you may have for your new home. For many years, their expertise has been highly regarded by two of the UK’s leading law directories, the Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners.
Our Service Pledge
At Attwaters Jameson Hill we provide a Service Pledge to every client who walks through our doors: our promise that we will treat you with respect, respond when we say we will, and keep you up to date on progress. We want you to feel 100% reassured that, in choosing us to handle your listed building or historical property transaction, you are placing your trust in a firm of solicitors who place quality and integrity at the heart of everything they do. Our Service Pledge means that you can be sure of the legal support needed to enable you to complete your property transaction as smoothly and as swiftly as possible.
Call us today
For further information or a quote please contact Peter Westbrook