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Apartment Hotels & Serviced Apartments Building Regulations

Published on: 24/06/2024

This note gives guidance to help interpret whether a building should be considered a serviced apartment or an apartment hotel (a High Risk Building or a non-High Risk Building). The note highlights the variance between the two uses. The onus would be on the client to provide the information that would allow the determination to be made.


Apartment hotels and serviced apartments serve a market for people who are looking for comfortable, often longer-term accommodation, providing a similar lifestyle and facilities of a home. This is often on a more affordable basis compared to a traditional hotel, usually in central hub locations.

Both apartment hotels and serviced apartments offer visitors more room than typical hotel accommodation. An apartment hotel is usually around 28m2 and often contains a lounge area and possibly kitchen facilities which avoids the feeling of being restricted to a bedroom. A serviced apartment is on average 55m2 but can be larger and has the same facilities as a self-contained apartment, including a kitchen.


What are the key differences between an apartment hotel and a serviced apartment?

Visitors staying in an apartment hotel can often find a range of amenities under the same roof as their room, as with a hotel. These may include; restaurants, bars, pools and gyms and will also be fully serviced with a reception and concierge. The hotel style building can include a mix of both apartments and hotel rooms.

Serviced apartments are self-contained and typically do not offer any or limited hotel style facilities (this is not necessarily the case within the Private Rental Sector). They are used in the same manner as a self-contained apartment and can accommodate a larger number of people if required.

The London Plan 2021 provides the following definition for clarity:

Self-contained hotel accommodation (C1 Use Class) provides for short term occupancy, purchased at a nightly rate with no deposit against damages. This will usually include concierge, room service and include formal procedures for checking in and out. Planning conditions may limit the length of stay for occupiers.

It is generally accepted that the difference between a rented house and a serviced apartment comes down to the length of stay. The Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1973 provides that the use of residential premises for temporary sleeping accommodation for less than 90 consecutive nights in London is a change of use, for which Planning permission is required as it will be deemed as a hotel use with a C1 use class. If in excess of 90 days, it falls within a residential use under a C3 use class.

How do apartment hotels or serviced apartments differ from residential accommodation?

With residential private sector renting options, a contract is usually a condition of occupancy. The person renting is deemed a ‘tenant’ who pays rent, typically for a minimum term of 6 months under an Assured Shorthold Tenancy. Once the term expires the tenant will very often be able to remain on a rolling ‘periodic’ tenancy basis for an unlimited period of time. A tenant of residential accommodation will usually be required to take responsibility for paying council tax and utilities bills directly, paying for actual usage rather than an estimate. In contrast, with an apartment hotel or serviced apartment the hotel operator pays for all services except perhaps telephone usage if provided.

In residential accommodation, where applicable the tenant will often be required to pay directly for service charges and ground rent relating to the overall upkeep of the building and any grounds. The tenant therefore takes overall responsibility for the property. Furthermore, in direct contrast to an apartment hotel, no person is allowed to enter residential accommodation without prior agreement from the tenant. Therefore, a tenant of residential accommodation has rights that do not apply when staying in a hotel or apartment hotel.

Examples of services that are often provided in an apartment hotel or serviced apartment, but not residential accommodation are:

  • Manager / concierge
  • Internet access
  • Cleaning/changing of laundry
  • Welcome pack

Classification with the Building Safety Regulator

In terms of classification by the BSR, whether an apartment hotel is designated as a higher-risk building would depend on the specific criteria laid down by them. The Building Safety Regulator typically classifies higher-risk buildings based on factors such as height, occupancy and use. For example, residential buildings over a certain height or with a certain number of dwellings might be considered higher risk.

In this case the determination of the use may also involve consideration of the fire strategy of the proposal, is it stay put, phased or simultaneous evacuation? A building that is based on stay put is unlikely to be an apartment hotel and conversely a building that has a simultaneous evacuation strategy would not lend itself to a serviced apartment use.

An apartment hotel or serviced apartment could be classified as a higher-risk building if it meets the specific criteria laid out by the Building Safety Regulator, which often focuses on residential use. The fact that it has serviced apartment features does not inherently categorise it as higher risk; rather, the risk assessment would be based on the aforementioned factors and any additional ones deemed relevant by the regulatory framework.

Sweco can give a view based on information provided but for an authoritative classification it should be recommended that the client consult with the Building Safety Regulator directly or legal experts in the field of building safety and compliance.

Criteria for determining whether a building is a higher-risk building during the occupation phase of the new higher-risk regime

1) Buildings used entirely as hotels are excluded from the higher-risk regime. Hotels are buildings which provide overnight accommodation for customers who stay for the purpose of leisure or business and as upheld in the Mayflower Cambridge Ltd v Secretary of State for the Environment and Cambridge City Council : “The essence of a hotel is that it takes transient passengers.”

Apartment hotels would also typically be excluded.

2) We consider hostels which also provide overnight accommodation to customers for leisure or business as a type of hotel and so if a building is used entirely as a hostel, then it is not considered a higher-risk building. Hotels are excluded regardless of how long these buildings are occupied by individuals or groups of customers.

3) Serviced apartments do not fall within the meaning of a hotel and are considered a residential unit. If there was another residential unit within the building and the height or storey threshold was met then the entire building, including the short-term let property, would be considered a higher-risk building.

4) A short-term let (for example, a short-term rental property let online) is considered a residential unit. If there was another residential unit within the building and the height or storey threshold was met then the entire building, including the short-term let property, would be considered a higher-risk building.

It is imperative the design team proposing the end use of the building and/or facilities, continually consider these through the design, construction and occupation phases. This is to ensure that any alterations to occupation arrangements will not change the overall status of the building.

Please download our PDF below for a matrix of key considerations.

The contents of this Guidance Note are confidential to Sweco and the intended recipient and are subject to copyright in favour of Sweco. The content of this Guidance Note must not be reproduced by any person (including the intended recipient) without the prior written consent of Sweco.

The Guidance Note does not constitute professional advice and Sweco hereby offers no reliance and accepts no liability (in contract, tort (including negligence) or otherwise) for parties acting on the content of this Guidance Note without taking specific professional advice from Sweco. The Guidance Note is provided as generic guidance only and any opinion, views or advice expressed in this Guidance Note are made without any representations or provide any assurances or warranties as to the content.  If you require specific advice with respect to your own project or circumstances, please contact Neil Badley.