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Listed building consent issue - please help!

(80 Posts)
TheTeaFairy Thu 30-Jun-16 10:29:33

I'm trying to buy a Grade II listed Georgian townhouse with a rear extension consisting of a ground-floor utility room with first-floor bathroom above. The vendor has no knowledge/proof of when this extension was built. Our surveyor says the bathroom (first floor) was probably built pre 1950 (when the property was listed smile) and the ground-floor utility room added later sad.

My question is: how do I ascertain that this extension is legal? Due to the fact that there is no time bar on enforcement action, I am concerned that if I need to repair the extension (likely) and apply for LBC to do so, the conservation officer may then say that it contravenes the listing and could insist on it being demolished.

The vendor does not seem keen to approach the council to obtain retrospective LBC for the extension. Our solicitor has suggested indemnity insurance but says that if at any point in the future I have to apply for LBC in order to carry out repairs, this would void the policy.

Has anyone been in a similar situation and did you find a solution? I LOVE the house but am wondering whether I should walk away sad. Without the extension it would be too small for my family.

TIA for any thoughts flowers

PS Going out for a while but will be back later.

Nefer795 Thu 30-Jun-16 11:38:55

Might be worth talking to your local conservation officer on the phone and getting their advice. If the bathroom was added before 1950 and is directly above the utility, surely the utility must also predate the listing?

TheTeaFairy Thu 30-Jun-16 12:23:32

Thank you Nefer795.

I was wondering about that, but I'm worried about the morality of alerting the CO to the problem when I don't own the property…

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Thu 30-Jun-16 12:25:08

I don't see a moral problem.

TheTeaFairy Thu 30-Jun-16 12:35:29

Well… if I alert the CO to the issue, then don't buy the house, they could conceivably issue an enforcement to the current owner (vendor). Or am I overthinking this?

TheTeaFairy Thu 30-Jun-16 12:36:05

Are you suggesting that I do it anonymously? That's an idea smile

TondelayaDellaVentamiglia Thu 30-Jun-16 12:36:21

if you want to buy it without taking on all the ishhoos you will have to ask!

I may have done this, not with malice aforethought though. We looked at a property that was listed, EA claimed it was C listed, owners said B, but only the facade

Five minutes on the internet revealed it to be a Cat A listed building, I phoned the chap at the council, to make enquiries to try and get some facts

He had a conniption when he realised that actually it very much was his area and not the neighbouring one as he had gloated to himself every day since they had put the new double glazing UPvc windows in.

I believe the people who gazumped us had many many issues after moving in.

So definitely do your research, can you look up the listing online...they should all be there.

TheTeaFairy Thu 30-Jun-16 12:37:05

Plus, I'm not sure that the surveyor's opinion is 'proof' of it being constructed pre-1950…

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Thu 30-Jun-16 12:39:31

The vendor shouldn't be trying to sell it if he doesn't have his ducks in a row wrt permission for work done. After all, either this gets sorted out or he passes the risk onto the next poor sucker.

TheTeaFairy Thu 30-Jun-16 12:41:38

Thank you Tondelaya.

I have looked up the listing online and it's all there (but no mention of any extension).

There's no record online or in the council records (solicitor has checked) of any application for PP or LBC for the extension. Which could simply be because it was so long ago.

I'm not concerned about having to do repairs to the extension - our builder has reassured us about the costs involved in that - but I need to know that the extension is allowed to exist and that once the council is aware of its existence, repairs will be permitted.

That's all.


TheTeaFairy Thu 30-Jun-16 12:43:12

My view exactly TheCountess!

Which is why I've asked mysolicitor to ask him to request LBC.

Seems to be a stalemate.

TheTeaFairy Thu 30-Jun-16 12:44:53

The vendor's view appears to be that because no questions were raised re LBC when he purchased the property, we should accept the status quo.

SoupDragon Thu 30-Jun-16 12:46:58

I honestly think you're going to have to ask the CO.

I not sure how a first floor extension can predate the ground floor part though.

TheTeaFairy Thu 30-Jun-16 12:48:33

Thanks SoupDragon.

Me neither: the surveyor thinks the first floor was original, then the ground floor was 'filled in'. Seems a bit unlikely to me.

SoupDragon Thu 30-Jun-16 12:50:43

If the extension is not on the listing, do you need LBC to repair it?

I suspect this is why buying a listed building is not popular with everyone!!

Pigeonpost Thu 30-Jun-16 12:51:10

Vendor is wrong. We sold a Victorian terraced house last year that I bought 20 years ago. It had had a downstairs fireplace/chimney breast removed but not upstairs. For reasons which I cannot explain we didn't confirm before purchase that all the correct building regs had been complied with before we bought it. Work had probably been done in the 1970's.Sold it last year and had no choice but to fork out £5k to get the correctional work done. Other option would have been to give our buyer £5k off to do the work himself but I can't see why he didn't, you never know what nightmares are going to occur when you start fiddling with the structure of old houses. Deffo speak to the conservation officer as its Grade II listed.

TheTeaFairy Thu 30-Jun-16 13:05:21

SoupDragon. Not sure, but they might notice we were doing work, then they might not be happy if they realised it wasn't on the listing.

Thank you both - you've confirmed what I was thinking. I'll have to contact the CO.

Cheers flowers

mollie123 Thu 30-Jun-16 13:17:02

if you look at the register of listed buildings it may well give the date of listing and whether existing alterations were part of that listing.
I live in a grade 2 listed black and white cottage - which was scheduled for demolition (sheep living in it) before it was renovated and subsequently listed. There are usually certain things that are sacrosanct in listed buildings - often it is the frontage or a bread oven or roofline.
Any changes AFTER listing should have LBC and this would be available to the solicitor/conveyancer.
Living in a listed building has advantages - they are usually interesting quirky buildings
the downside - cannot tack on a porch, conservatory or change any of the 'features' without LBC (and insurance is more expensive.)

Nefer795 Thu 30-Jun-16 13:17:54

You can probably discuss the issue with the CO without specifying the address, just explaining the situation. The vendor would have this issue with anyone whose solicitor is doing a thorough job. You would have exactly the same issue if you wanted to sell so it's really important to have it all clear before purchase.

mollie123 Thu 30-Jun-16 13:19:47

sorry just seen you have checked the listing. but the date of listing may be important. Even if something is not specifically mentioned in the listing it may well be part of the listing (IYSWIM)

TheTeaFairy Thu 30-Jun-16 14:01:24

Thanks for the new replies - very helpful brew and cake

Mollie - that's the problem: I'm trying to ascertain whether the extension was 'tacked on' after the listing. If it wasn't, then there isn't a problem… but somehow I have to prove this!

Neither the vendor nor the solicitors seem concerned about the lack of paperwork but I can't buy the property without clearing this up.

TheTeaFairy Thu 30-Jun-16 14:04:26

Any changes AFTER listing should have LBC and this would be available to the solicitor/conveyancer.

The key word here is should hmm

mollie123 Thu 30-Jun-16 14:10:38

good luck with sorting it out - sorry I was not much help
personally I would love to live in a grade 2 listed townhouse so hope you manage to pin down the permission for the extension (why do people not keep all the important paperwork about such things?)

OhIfIMust Thu 30-Jun-16 14:23:34

I was in the exact same position when we bought our house (grade 2 listed) the only bathroom was downstairs with no paperwork. I eventually dated it as older than the date it was listed (you can look this up - for us it was mid-70s) because it had a geriatric shower fitting which was only made before that date. I spoke to the council listed buildings officer first too, who - as long-term we planned to pull the extension down and rebuild it - was very relaxed about it. So we went ahead without any paperwork and took the risk. BUT if you're at all worried maybe indemnity insurance would ease your worries a bit? Make sure you get a proper survey from a company expert in listed buildings and the other shock we had was home and contents insurance is so much more (for us Victorian terrace £250ish, this house around £800). Good luck!

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Thu 30-Jun-16 14:25:17

There might not be any paperwork - I would think there's a good chance it was done without permission.
Several things were done to my house (Georgian townhouse!) between the listing in 1953 and the last load of owners (1979-2014) and I can't believe the owner had LBC (eg taking out nice old fireplaces that are specifically mentioned in the listing).
I don't think there's much risk of your extension having to be demolished, tbh, especially if it's been around a while, but it will affect the future saleability of the property so I think you are quite right to not proceed without things being in order and knowing where you stand with the conservation officer.

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