Question: We are buying a flat that is Grade II-listed. When we checked the lease and the plans attached to it we noticed that the current layout of the flat is different.
A couple of walls have been removed between the sitting room and kitchen to make it open-plan and a wall has also been knocked down to make the bathroom and loo into one big bathroom. Our conveyancer says all is fine as there is a building regulations completion certificate. Is this correct?
Answer: Listed building consent is required for any works involving demolition, alteration or extension to a listed building, and for works which affect its character as a structure of special architectural or historic interest.
The removal of walls is likely to have required such consent and if the seller cannot produce it, you should ask them to obtain it retrospectively, or to provide, at their expense, indemnity insurance for the lack of it. However, if you intend to carry out more work to the flat that is likely to require listed building consent, do note that indemnity insurance may not be appropriate, as the cover may be affected in such circumstances.
If you buy the flat and unauthorised works have been carried out, you become liable for any listed building enforcement action in connection with those works — although only the person who carried out the works, or caused them to be carried out, could be found guilty of a criminal offence.
In addition, under the terms of the lease it would be usual for there to be a covenant requiring the prior written consent of the landlord for the internal alterations.
If this consent was not granted it could be given retrospectively, or the seller can provide, at their own expense, indemnity insurance for breach of covenant.
What's your problem? If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email firstname.lastname@example.org 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 (www.withyking.co.uk).