Hiring and letting of heritage buildings

17 December 2019

The use of historic buildings for third-party events can introduce new risks but careful planning can help you to maintain a safe environment and protect the building.

Inside view of heritage building ballroom

Letting listed buildings for events

Historic buildings are increasingly let to third parties as a means of generating additional revenue and sustaining their economic viability.
Event requests will vary; each one will need to be individually assessed, taking into account the nature and scale of the event. Letting events should be restricted to those identified as acceptable based on your assessment. 

Considerations for hiring out a heritage property

The considerations below may help to inform your assessment, protect the building and keep attendees safe. 
1. Create a procedures document
Based on your assessment, a procedures document should be created and followed by hirers when using the property. Hirers should sign up for these procedures before the event takes place. 
2. Check that your contractors have insurance 
Contractors should be able to demonstrate compliance with health and safety legal requirements, have their own public and employers’ liability insurance in place, provide references and supervise both their own employees and any sub-contractors they use.
3. Plan welfare facilities 
Suitable toilet, changing, restroom and canteen facilities should be provided for contractors. A designated smoking area should be provided outside the building, with ashtrays and a separate metal bin for cigarette waste disposal.
4. Allocate time to set up and pack up
Inadequate provision of time can result in shortcuts being taken and accidents occurring. 
5. Gain permission for temporary structures 
Temporary structures such as marquees, should not be erected without first obtaining any necessary permission, such as listed building consent. They should not be fixed to the fabric of the building in any way.  
6. Test portable electrics 
All portable electrical equipment brought on-site should have been subject to regular portable appliance safety testing, you should check contractors have certificates to this effect before set up. Proprietary cable protectors should be used where there are trailing cables to minimise tripping hazards and the risk of physical damage to the cable. 
7. Make it fire safe
Fire risk assessments for the property will need to be reviewed and amended where necessary to reflect any additional risks arising from events. Candles and other naked flames should be carefully contained. Where possible, the use of portable heaters should be avoided. If additional heating is identified as necessary, steps should be taken to minimise both their environmental impact and the increased risk of fire.
8. Dispose of excess waste
Events can generate excess waste so you should make plans to dispose of this as soon as possible. Accumulated waste can increase the risk of fire and attract vermin. 
9. Protect the building and contents
All traffic routes should be checked for valuable or delicate items, including any fixtures and fittings. Anything that could be damaged easily should be removed or precautions should be in place to protect it. 
10. Prepare for overnight stays
If you have people staying on the property overnight for events such as a wedding, you will need to review your safety arrangements for these guests. This might include providing torches for areas that are not well lit.     
If you run short-stay lets through organisations such as Airbnb, check their insurance/guarantees to understand what you are covered for. You should also let your insurer know as this may change the terms of your insurance. 
For more detail on the points listed above, please read our guide on letting and hiring historic premises