When a listed building is involved, the works involved resolving enforcement action, even on small alterations, can quickly escalate and become an expensive and time-consuming claim.
It can also be a daunting experience for a homeowner, as local authorities can take enforcement action many years after works have been completed. The homeowner often faces a list of complicated and expensive demands to bring the works up to standard, or risks having to remove the works and suffer a loss in their property’s value as a result.
Enquiries involving replacement doors and windows are often easy issues to underwrite. So when we received an enquiry in August 2016 about a property on the promenade of a coastal town, where UPVC windows had been installed in the 1980s, we were happy to issue a policy covering Listed Buildings Consent and Lack of Building Regs for £479 with a limit of £450,000.
In 2017, following a decision to take action on listed properties, the local council visited the property and advised that the windows would need to be replaced. Despite the homeowner arguing that the windows had been there nearly 30 years, the council insisted on their replacement, so the insured contacted us to make a claim.
The works required were substantial, but our claims team took the lead on the project, utilising their experience, coordinating all the works and contractors involved, and providing much needed support to the insured during a stressful process. The team employed a local historic buildings consultant to manage with the application process, overseeing the required production of drawings, plans and surveys, including a required assessment of the historical significance of the property. The council had very specific requirements for the replacements, insisting upon handmade timber-frame, single-glazed sash windows. There was also a rooflight which needed to be replaced, again with a specified material (the location meant that potential erosion also had to be considered), and the council specified the company to manufacture and fit this. In addition to these very detailed works, the policy also paid for scaffolding for the installation, and internal ‘making good’. In total we paid out £42,500, and the claim took more than two years to complete, including sign-off from the council.
Our team was just as hands-on when dealing with another claim that involved a flat in the south-west of England. In January 2012, we were happy to issue a policy covering lack of evidence of listed building consent for the installation of replacement double glazed windows and a courtyard door, where the works had been completed at the property prior to 2004. The policy was issued for £262, with a limit of £155,000.
In May 2017, the insured notified us of a claim after receiving a letter from the local council, requesting the windows and doors at the front of the building be changed and listed consent be obtained. Following an inspection, they extended their request to include all of the windows, which suggests their initial instruction was issued based on research and photographs of the property, rather than a complaint or a site visit.
Our claims team hired a local architect to prepare plans and drawings, and to submit the listed application. Bespoke handmade wooden sash windows were again required, and the team obtained quotes from various local joinery firms. The architect also liaised with the joiners to ensure compliance with the council’s requirements. The policy covered the application fees, architect’s fees, the costs of supplying and fitting the windows and one door, and the total of the claim was just under £21,500. Again, this was a very detailed and prolonged project, taking over two years to complete.
The sums involved in these case studies are quite substantial (and probably surprising), and show that our handling of a claim, especially for this type of policy, is more than just writing a cheque. We know how distressing enforcement action can be, and that’s why we work alongside our policyholders to guide them through the process of arranging any remedial works necessary to comply with the local authority’s requirements, and do whatever we can to ensure the claim is resolved as quickly and thoroughly as possible.