VAT Treatment of Serviced Apartments : The Realreed Limited Case

VAT Treatment of Serviced Apartments : The Realreed Limited Case


Realreed owns a property called Chelsea Cloisters in Sloane Avenue, London. The property comprises; 656 self-contained apartments and some commercial units. 421 of these apartments are let on long leases (no VAT issues arise from these supplies). The appeal concerned the VAT treatment of the letting of the remaining 235 apartments, which include studio, one-bedroom or two-bedroom self-contained rooms. The appellant has, at all times, received a significant number of occupiers from corporate customers when they relocate their employees to London for a specified period, such as a secondment.

In this First-Tier Tribunal (FTT) case the issue was whether serviced apartments qualify for exemption.

The contentions

Realreed argued that the letting of the apartments is a supply of accommodation which is exempt under The VAT Act 1994, Schedule 9, Group 1, Item 1. Chelsea Cloisters operates like a ‘home from home’ for its tenants: it provides residential accommodation.

The physical appearance of the building is very similar to that of other residential buildings in the vicinity. It does not have signage suggesting the serviced accommodation is a hotel or similar establishment. It is rare for hotels (or similar establishments) at the booking point to offer long-term availability in the same way as Realreed does. Chelsea Cloisters does not offer room service, or catering of any form.

Tenants have fully functioning kitchens and other self-catering facilities within their apartments and have washing machines and dryers to do all their own laundry. Tenants can, and do, stay for extended periods of time (one for around 20 years). The business has always involved the provision of residential accommodation on a longer-term basis than would typically be found in a hotel, with a much higher degree of personal autonomy for the occupant.

HMRC contended that the use of the Apartments is carved out of the exemption in Item 1 by excepted item (d), which applies to “the provision in an hotel, inn, boarding house or similar establishment of sleeping accommodation”. Note 9 to Group 1 provides that “similar establishment” “includes premises in which there is provided furnished sleeping accommodation whether with or without the provision of board or facilities for the preparation of food, which are used or held out as being suitable for use by visitors or travellers”.


The court considered that Realreed provided sleeping accommodation in an establishment which is similar to a hotel. The two hallmarks of short-term accommodation coupled with additional services (daily maid service, linen changing, cleaning at the end of a stay, residents bar, concierge) mean that Chelsea Cloisters is an establishment in potential competition with the hotel sector, which also offers short-term accommodation with services.

The FTT found that Realreed provided furnished sleeping accommodation, so the remaining question was whether Chelsea Cloisters is used by or held out as being suitable for use by “visitors or travellers” per Note 9.

The FTT interpreted ‘visitor or traveller’ as referring to a person who is present in a particular place without making it their home, ie; they are not staying there with any degree of permanence. The average length of visit was less than a fortnight which must mean that the apartments were indeed made available to visitors or travellers.

The supplies were therefore standard rated.


There is a distinction between leases and other room lettings for VAT. The most important issue is the degree of “permanence”, although other factors have a bearing. Businesses which let rooms should consider the nature of their supplies with reference to this case which helpfully sets out which factors need to be considered.

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VAT Treatment of Serviced Apartments : The Realreed Limited Case
VAT Treatment of Serviced Apartments : The Realreed Limited Case