How-To: Protect Your Historic House with a Preservation Easement
Photo by Rob Kearns
Photo by Rob Kearns
There are a number of ways to provide for the future protection of historic properties such as those designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The most common way is through the designation of the property as a local landmark. While many local historic preservation ordinances have strong protections, the level of those protections can vary between municipalities, and political pressures can influence the degree to which they are followed. Listing on the National Register of Historic Places is an important recognition of a building’s significance, but carries very limited protections.
When a property owner grants a preservation easement, he or she is conveying to a qualified easement holder, such as the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, the owner’s traditional rights to demolish or significantly alter the premises, or subdivide the property. This is done in order to preserve the property’s historic character for all time. The restrictions of the easement are binding on all future owners of the property.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy holds several easements on Wright properties around the country. We are happy to work with owners who wish to donate an easement to the Building Conservancy, or to facilitate the donation of an easement to another qualified 501(c)3 charitable organization.
Since these are valuable property rights, their conveyance can be considered a charitable contribution. However, due to the complexity of the current IRS regulations and the risk of the property owner being audited, the Conservancy is not currently accepting easements for which the owner desires to take the tax deduction.
If an owner wishes to move forward with donating an easement there are a number of steps. These include:
The grant of a preservation easement to a qualified charitable organization obligates that organization to:
In doing these tasks the charitable organization may incur expenses over the years. This is why all historic preservation organizations that accept easements request a contribution into their Easement Monitoring Fund. These are funds that the organization holds to cover monitoring and enforcement costs. This is a one-time gift, usually given at the time of recording the easement. This donation may be tax-deductible to the building owner as a charitable contribution, thus reducing its financial impact.
While the owner of the easement property is responsible for all care and maintenance of the property, it is the Building Conservancy’s goal to work in partnership with property owners to ensure the highest standards of preservation of the property.
Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions if you think you might be interested in placing a preservation easement on your Wright-designed home.
Posted on July 12, 2018