Preservation of Historic Communities
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Questions and Answers

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What is an historic preservation easement?

An historic preservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement made between a property owner and a qualifying organization to protect a certified historic structure. By granting an easement, the owner promises not to change the outside appearance of the structure without the permission of the organization.

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What are the tax advantages of donating an easement?

The donation of a fa├žade conservation easement is recognized as a charitable contribution under the tax code. The value of the easement, and therefore the charitable contribution deduction, is based on a qualified, independent appraisal. This amount is deducted from the owner's federal income taxes in the same manner as other charitable contributions. The deduction applies to local income taxes in Washington, DC and state income taxes in Maryland as with any other charitable contribution.

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How can I determine if a property is eligible?

To be eligible, the property must be either located in a Historic District that is listed in the National Register of Historic Places or separately identified on the National Register as a "Landmark Property." For properties in a National Register Historic District, the property must have been one of the contributing properties at the time the District was established or extended. There are no restrictions as to the use of the property (it may, for example, be a single or multi-family residence, or a commercial, industrial or institutional building) or its fair market value (the property may be valued from the tens of thousands to the tens of millions of dollars).

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What is the value of a preservation easement and how is it set?

The value of the easement is set by a qualified, independent appraiser.

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Is there a cash outlay associated with making an easement donation?

Yes, there is a cash outlay associated with making an easement donation. It include appraisal fees, bank service charges and a cash contribution to the Trust for monitoring the property in perpetuity. These expenses are generally tax deductible along with the easement deduction.

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How long does an easement last?

The main purpose of a fa├žade conservation easement is to forever guarantee the protection of the property's architectural integrity. As a result, the tax code requires that the easement be granted in perpetuity.

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What restrictions are imposed on the property owner?

The basic restrictions of the historic preservation easement relate to the architectural integrity of the exterior of the property. They require that the property owner receive the consent of the Trust before any exterior modifications are made that will change the exterior.

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What criteria does the Trust use when reviewing a proposed change?

In general, a proposed change is acceptable if it is consistent with the property's original architectural style.

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How long does it take to receive approval from the Trust for a proposed exterior change to a property?

The Trust will normally respond within two weeks to all such requests. In the circumstance where the changes are large scale and more time is needed for review, the Trust will promptly inform the owner as to when he or she can expect a final decision.

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Is an easement property open to the public?

The Trust easement normally does not grant public access to the property, as long as the property is visible from the street.

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What must I do before beginning maintenance projects on my property?

Rehabilitation and maintenance work requires the prior approval of the Trust only when it would change the appearance of the protected exterior. When completing such projects, the Trust recommends that the standards and guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Interior be followed whenever possible.

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What must I do to make a donation?

For more information about making a donation, click here for the section "I Want To Participate."

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