Can we repair our Grade II-listed house without voiding the indemnity policy?

We bought a Grade II-listed building which came with an indemnity policy. If we replace a crumbling porch with something that looks the same, will our indemnity policy still stand?

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Question: we bought a Grade II-listed building which came with an indemnity policy for work carried out without documented approval some years ago. One of the features listed on the policy is a porch that is falling apart and needs to be torn down and replaced, ideally with more durable material. It is made from wood and would have to be replaced by a brick-based construction.

If we replace the porch with something that looks the same but in different material, will the indemnity policy still stand? We can't apply to the local authority for permission as this would make the policy void.

Answer: Listed building consent is needed for demolition, alteration or extension of a listed building and for any work which affects its character as a structure of special architectural or historical interest. If you now apply for consent, a listed buildings officer is likely to inspect the property, realise consent wasn't granted previously and could require you to reinstate the building to its original form.

Your policy is unlikely to cover you in such circumstances and is also likely to be void.

Ask the insurers whether they are prepared to agree to you approaching the council for listed building consent. Ask a surveyor specialising in listed buildings to advise on the extent of the work that was done without consent, whether retrospective consent is likely to be granted, and also if consent is likely to be granted for work you want to do.

If it is feasible, you may need to proceed in that way — obtaining listed building consent for the work you want to do, and retrospective consent for the previous works.

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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually but we will try to feature them here. 

These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor. 

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