Understanding Insurance

Insurance for listed buildings

When you buy a listed property, you are lucky enough to own a piece of history. But despite the wealth of fascinating history that comes with a listed building, it can also bring complications when it comes to finding home insurance. Its special status can mean it is complicated and expensive to find insurance. But not to worry – here at Dial Direct, we’ve put together a guide on insurance for listed buildings to help you understand how to protect your historical home.

What is a listed building?

A building is listed due to its special architectural features or if it is of historical interest and importance. A building tends to be listed if it is of national interest, its age or rarity, its aesthetic appeal or if it is only one of a few still standing. The general rule is that the older the building is, the more likely it is to be listed. All buildings from before 1700 are listed, but that’s not to say that all listed buildings must be of historic value. Some buildings which are less than 30 years old can be listed if they are under threat or of outstanding quality.

There are over 500,000 listed buildings in England, spread across three different categories of listed properties:

  • Grade I: buildings of exceptional interest. This is quite rare as only 2.5% of all listed buildings are this grade.
  • Grade II*: buildings of particular interest. There are slightly more buildings with this grade of listing compared to Grade I, but it is still relatively rare with only 5.8% of all listed buildings being Grade II*.
  • Grade II: buildings of special interest. This is the most common type of listing with 92% of all listed buildings being this grade.

So, how does a building become listed?

A building becomes listed either by nomination to Historic England or through Historic England’s own research process. Once buildings have been identified that Historic England believe should be listed, recommendations are made to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport who then makes the final decision on listing. Those buildings are then added to the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, which makes them listed.

In most cases, the whole building will be listed but this is not a set rule. A listing can include a specific part of a building, a whole row of buildings, outbuildings, extensions or the land surrounding the building.

What does it mean if my house is listed?

Being listed means that the building is protected from alterations and repairs, in order to protect its listed status and to avoid a loss of any monetary value. If your house is listed, this means that you will need to get building consent from your local planning authority to do any work on your home.

This process differs slightly in other parts of the UK:

  • Wales – certain local authorities have the power to grant consent for Grade II properties, but in most cases they will refer applications to the Welsh Government for consent.
  • Scotland – local planning authorities are the main point of consent in Scotland, who make decisions on the guidance of Historic Environment Scotland.
  • Northern Ireland – any changes to a listed home must be approved by the local council, who will consult the historic environment division of the Department of Communities.

If your home is listed, this does not mean that you cannot do any work on the building. It simply means that there are rules around which type of work you can do, the materials you can use and the workmen who can carry out that work. The aim is to keep the building as close to its original state as possible.

Owning a listed property also comes with certain responsibilities for maintaining the building. Some important things to note include:

  • The local planning authority can force you to maintain the building if it believes the property is falling into disrepair
  • The authority can insist that you carry out repairs using specific materials
  • In extreme cases, the local authority can reclaim your property if it feels you are not looking after it properly
  • If you carry out any work without consent of the planning authority, they can insist that you reverse the work you have carried out

If you are unsure whether your home is a listed building, you can check by searching the list.

What is listed building insurance?

Listed building insurance is different to normal home insurance as it is not a one size fits all product. Listed building insurance is specific to the individual needs of the property it protects. This means it is more difficult for insurance companies to calculate the risks of each individual property, therefore mostly specialist insurers offer this product.

The cost of insuring your listed home is also likely to be higher than an un-listed home. This is due to a number of reasons:

  • Rebuild costs – the insurance premiums take into account the potential cost of rebuilding the property brick by brick. This includes the extra regulations around material and workmen, which may become expensive and difficult to source.
  • Age of property – as listed properties are mostly historical buildings, they are more prone to issues such as damp, subsistence and weather damage. This higher risk leads to higher premiums.
  • Unusual features – many older buildings have unusual features which lead to more risk. For example, thatched roofs are common on listed buildings.

What does it cover?

Listed buildings cover will be specific to the individual policy and may cover things like damage to the building, the cost of specialist materials and labour or the cost of alternative accommodation should the home be uninhabitable. It is worth researching your property – including when it was built, any past repairs etc. – to best understand the needs of your home. But remember: the policy won’t cover routine maintenance or wear and tear.

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