Our listed building guilty secret is out

We were warned we would not get consent but knocked down some internal walls of our Grade II-listed mews house anyway. Now we need to move don't know what to do.
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Question: My wife and I have done a lot of work over the years to our Grade II-listed mews house, almost always with planning permission and listed building consents. Two years ago we wanted to knock down some internal walls and were warned we would not get consent but we did it anyway. Now we have to move to be near our daughter and don't know what to do about not having got listed building consent. Please help.

Answer: Instruct a surveyor with experience of listed buildings to advise whether you are likely to succeed if you apply for retrospective listed building consent. If the surveyor believes you will get it, make the application. However, if they feel it's possible consent may not be granted, you must consider obtaining indemnity insurance for lack of listed building consent instead.

The problem is that if you apply retrospectively but consent is denied, you will be unable to obtain indemnity insurance, as the local historic buildings team will have been put on notice that there is no consent. Ideally, you should put such insurance in place before you market your property, but do not let the issue and existence of the policy be generally known. This is because if a prospective buyer learns there is a lack of listed building consent they may contact the local authority to enquire about obtaining it retrospectively, and such notice may preclude you from obtaining indemnity insurance, or may affect the terms of the policy. Once you have accepted an offer your solicitor should send out a copy of the indemnity policy with the contract papers to the buyer's solicitor.

And don't forget about building regulations approval. If you didn't obtain that either, you will need to deal with that retrospectively or consider indemnity insurance.

If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk 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. Fiona McNulty is a partner in the residential property, farms and estates team at Withy King LLP (withyking.co.uk).

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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