What is a serviced apartment and how do they work? This essential guide from Dolphin Square will give you all the necessary information about renting a serviced apartment in London, so you can make the choice that’s right for you.
What is a serviced apartment?
‘Serviced apartments’ are a type of furnished accommodation which are available for a short- or long-term stay. There are usually 3 types of let: Short Term Lets (1-89 nights), Corporate Lets (minimum 3 months) and Residential Lets (minimum 1 year).
They are set up so that when renting you are able to arrive, walk through the door and feel immediately at home.
The bedroom, bathroom and kitchen (pantry style or full depending on the property) are ready and equipped, including bedding, towels and facilities for self-catering and laundry. The apartments also come with regular housekeeping, 24 hr customer care and often additional guest amenities (e.g. a pool, a meeting centre and/or a restaurant). Utilities and local taxes are included within the rental price.
You can also opt to go with an accredited provider for peace of mind and quality assurance.
Serviced apartments work out on average to be 35% better value when it comes to space and cost than hotels of equivalent quality.
What is the difference between non-serviced and serviced apartments?
A non-serviced apartment, or ‘private let’, is a property or home that is usually privately owned and directly let by the owner. There is a huge range of all shapes, sizes and levels of luxury with amenities varying hugely. They might be listed somewhere such as AirBnB, rather than being run as a year-round business.
They’re usually self-catered and don’t tend to have additional services or security included as standard. The renter is usually responsible for cleaning the property and there is often a substantial deposit.
A serviced apartment is similar - in that it has all of the expected home comforts- you’d get from a non-serviced apartment, but the key difference is that serviced apartments come with regular housekeeping, bed linens and towels are supplied and changed every few days.
Serviced apartments being run as a business all year round means there is usually consistency in decor, amenities and quality, especially if you opt for an accredited provider They also have increased security and often have other guest amenities available.
The guest is not responsible for cleaning the property.
The finer details:
This will depend on the provider, how long and what rate you’ve booked for. For example, at Dolphin Square: if you’ve booked for a few nights on a flexible rate, it might be that no deposit is required, however, a guarantee of payment is required to hold the booking. If booked on an advance purchase rate, the terms advise that full prepayment is required which is non-refundable.
If you’re renting long term, again it depends on the provider, but as a general industry standard, the deposit is usually 5 weeks rent.
There is usually a holding fee applied which often only becomes non-refundable if you withdraw or give misleading information.
This again varies depending on how long you stay and what type of rental you’ve chosen. It’s worth asking the provider directly either by email or live chat on their website when you’ve figured out exactly what it is you’re after.
Who is most suited to using a serviced apartment?
Serviced apartments have long been rented as long term residences and by companies needing to relocate their employees for short term periods (e.g. for a 2-month training programme in London) - but more and more people are finding other reasons to enjoy the comfort and great value of staying in a serviced apartment.
They are especially economical for group travel or family parties staying for more than just a few nights. With the flexibility and savings offered by self-catering facilities, as well as the convenience of having an onsite restaurant and proximity to a wide range of restaurants and transport links, they allow you to save money and energy, as well as allowing you to live like a local.
The rising trend of serviced apartments in London
Over the last decade, there has been an accelerating rise in the number of people choosing to stay in serviced apartments, globally - and especially in London.
Business travel is a growing industry and serviced apartments are, understandably, the fastest growing form of accommodation within that. Access to home-comforts, the space to relax, socialise and maintain mental and physical wellbeing are all key factors in productivity and efficiency.
Trips that combine business and leisure (or ‘bleisure trips’ as they’ve been dubbed) are increasing in popularity every year, with a 20% rise between 2016-2017 alone.
Increasingly it isn’t just professional occupants making the most of the convenience, privacy, space and value provided. The leisure demand is also on the rise and people are choosing serviced apartments for group and family holidays, romantic city minibreaks and when temporarily relocating, for example when arriving in a new city or vacating during renovation work.
Types of stay suited to a serviced apartment
Short-term business trip: If staying in London for one or two nights going for a serviced apartment over a hotel means you have more space to work and home comforts around you to relax in.
Team business trip: The potential to have both shared and private spaces means a team can have the convenience of shared working space, while still having their own rooms to sleep and relax in. No more briefings sat around someone’s bed.
Executive rentals: Ideal when working in a new city for several months, whether on a temporary project or when first relocating longer term. Increasing numbers of business travellers rent long term and may also want to bring loved ones along for less lonely work trips, so require flexibility and space.
City mini-break: The chance to enjoy your weekend apartment in Central London, in a prime location in the heart of the capital.
A relaxing getaway: Enjoying the convenience of having kitchen facilities, the luxury of housekeeping services and the peace of mind of 24-hour security.
Group holiday: A home-away-from-home to enjoy with your friends*, without the stress of trawling through private rental listings or, once on your holiday, having to spend your quality time together cleaning.
Family holiday: Lots of space to share and also to escape to, along with self-catering facilities for flexible family meals and often a prime location for simple, convenient travel and exploration.
Relocating: Remove the stress of home improvements and treat yourself to staying somewhere comfortable and hassle-free.
The flexibility, freedom and control that you have over your space, when renting a serviced apartment, means you can find the perfect place, whatever the reason for your stay.
Where are serviced apartments located in London?
The growing popularity of serviced apartments means they are readily available all over the capital. The economics of providers having multiple apartments in one location means that they can offer more space in premium locations at a better value than you would find a similar private let. Dolphin House is in Pimlico, right in the centre of London, Zone 1.
Have a look at some of the most commonly asked questions about visiting London to learn more about staying in the city.
How serviced apartments compare to other forms of accommodation
There are potential risks with private rentals and non-accredited property providers such as Airbnb. There is little to no guarantee of accountability or consistency. Some providers, including Dolphin Square, are part of The Association of Serviced Apartments (ASAP) who have a global ‘Stay with Confidence’ promise. All accredited members of this association have to meet certain standards of service, security and care, giving you peace of mind and quality assurance when booking.
Renting a serviced apartment for a longer-term let means that you are less at the mercy of fluctuations in the property market as you are when renting on the open market.
Serviced apartments can come with flexible rates and you can easily extend you stay. There are also VAT levies on serviced apartments which make their rates come down after just a few nights, often making them cheaper than equivalent hotels.
As well as being more homely and private, when compared with a hotel of similar quality, serviced apartments are much better value - working out on average at a third of the price and with 35% more space, allowing you to spread out, relax and make the most of your stay.
What you should expect from a serviced apartment
Dolphin House offers a range of studios and apartments. You can select the level of luxury which best suits your needs, but all of our units are developed with comfort and sophistication in mind.
Starting from £159
Sleeps up to two people. Open-plan apartment with pantry-style kitchen and en-suite bathroom. (Average size 28 sq m)
Starting from £179
Sleeps up t0 two people. Includes a bedroom, separate lounge, en-suite bathroom and a kitchen or pantry. (Average size 46 sq m)
One-bedroom executive apartment
Starting from £204
Sleeps up to two people. Includes a bedroom, a separate spacious lounge, en-suite bathroom and kitchen. Deluxe apartments are larger than standard 1 bedroom apartments. (Average size 55 sq mts - 60 sq m)
Economy king room
Starting from £94
Room with king-size or twin beds, pantry style kitchen and en-suite bathroom. Sleeps 2.
Economy single room
Starting from £81
Room with a single bed, pantry style kitchen and en-suite bathroom. Sleeps 1.
Two-bedroom executive apartment
Starting from £324
Sleeps up to four people. Features two double bedrooms, a separate lounge, a kitchen and two bathrooms.
Amenities/inclusive facilities are consistent with other two-bedroom apartments. (Average size 85 sq mts - 95 sq mts)
In each of these apartments you will find:
- Direct-dial telephone with voicemail
- TV with Freeview
And in your bedroom you will find:
- King size or twin beds
- Hypnos pocket-sprung mattresses - double or twin beds
- Luxurious Egyptian cotton percale bed linen
- Electronic safe (can hold a laptop)
- Iron and ironing board
- Dressing table
- Chest of drawers
- Built-in wardrobe
- 240V plugs
In the lounge?
- LCD flat-screen TV with Freeview TV
- 240V plugs
And the Bathroom?
- Toiletries on arrival
- Bath Tub
- 600 gram Cotton Towelling
- 240V plugs
In your Kitchen!
Then there’s the Pantry-style kitchen or full kitchens (available upon request):
- Tea, coffee, milk and sugar
- Pots, pans and cooking utensils
- Dining table and chairs (some apartments have these in a separate room)
- Electric hobs/oven (subject to request and availability)
- Washing machine (subject to request and availability)
You’ll also find on-site complimentary laundry facilities, including dry cleaners - available as room service. The executive rentals also come with a Nespresso Coffee Machine, daily towel change and bathrobes!
All rooms are non-smoking and our site is family-friendly. Daily maid service (with linens changed every third day) And breakfast is available 6:30am - 9:30am.
On top of that, our 24-hour reception offers the following:
- Wake up calls
- 24-hour duty manager
- 24-hour porter
- 24-hour security
- Deliveries to apartments are allowed
Also available on-site:
- Shopping arcade, including newsagent, greengrocers and a Mini Mart
- 24-hour cash machine
- Underground parking (within Zone 1 but outside congestion zone - so no charges as you come and go)
Here’s what’s included in the price:
- Utilities, council tax, waste disposal, maid service every three days, Wi-Fi, VAT, service charge and fees, and with some deals - boxed breakfast delivered outside your apartment
And here’s what’s not included:
- Food and drink - you choose what you eat!
- Connecting apartments, subject to availability may cost extra.
Onsite amenities at Dolphin Square
At Dolphin Square, we’re proud to offer the following luxury facilities and amenities for our guests.
The DSQ Gym: Access to the leisure facilities is complimentary for guests of Dolphin House and subject to availability and adhering to COVID guidelines. The spa is available (bookings and treatments need to be made directly with the Spa and prices are dependent on treatments booked.)
A swimming pool: Suitable for all ages.
A Moroccan-inspired spa: The perfect place to indulge and treat yourself after a rough day.
Tennis and squash courts: Whether you’re here to let your inner Henman shine, or you just want a casual knockabout, we’ve got you covered.
Life outside your serviced apartment
Dolphin Square is within walking distance from Vauxhall and Victoria, right in the heart of the city, next to the river Thames and by the Thames Path (National trail) - so you can enjoy a daily walk, enjoy the spacious and beautifully landscaped garden or nearby royal parks for fresh air and exercise - or use one of the nearby transport links to head anywhere in the city (or rest of the country!)
- Pimlico underground station: Running on the Victoria Line, the station is just 18 minutes from Canary Wharf, London’s financial district.
- Victoria underground, rail and coach stations: Connections across London and nationally, under 20 minutes’ walk from your Dolphin Square accommodation. Victoria underground is also on the Victoria, Circle and District lines to make travelling a breeze.
- Millbank Millennium Pier: Riverboat services and options for corporate events.
- Santander Cycles: For green commuting across the capital.
Being in the heart of central London means there are all sorts of places to visit and explore within easy reach, including markets, vintage shops and independent retailers, not to mention restaurants, bars and cafes.
Check out the Dolphin Square blog for more top tips on how to make the most of your stay.
What health & safety measures are being taken during COVID?
We would like to reassure you that our residents, clients and team members’ well-being and safety continues to be our utmost priority.
In the spirit of transparency, we would like to share some of the measures we have implemented:
- All public areas, as well as the back-of-house, are regularly and thoroughly cleaned to the highest standards, in particular the high-touch areas such as door handles, lift plates etc.
- All apartments are cleaned to strict guidelines, including enhanced sanitation of all surfaces.
- All team members have easy access to washing facilities, hygiene gel and tissues.
- Training has been implemented to ensure team members are fully aware of the situation and guidelines.
- Local pharmacies and supermarkets (Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s) within easy walking distance.
- 24-hour reception, on-premises Duty Manager and security team.
- All team members are equipped with appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from reception through to housekeeping and maintenance.
The following temporary impacts are placed on amenities
- The beautiful communal gardens make Dolphin Square ideal for working from home, space to relax and socialise and enjoy nature on your doorstep in a city environment.
- The fitness club and spa are now open - but pre-booking appointments are strongly recommended to help with social distancing.
- The Bar & Grill is currently closed, but the team have worked hard to create COVID safe alternatives:
- With a delivery menu now in place. The food will be delivered in a disposable box and left outside the door by a team member wearing gloves. Plates and cutlery are already provided in the apartment.
- These measures will also be taken to deliver the newly available 'Boxed Breakfast' option.
We are closely monitoring the situation and will take further steps as and when it becomes necessary, in line with government guidelines.
Our regularly published COVID updates and more information can be found here.
So Why Choose a Serviced Apartment?
A Dolphin Square booking gives you the best of both worlds. The convenience, luxury and high customer care of a quality hotel such as access to guest amenities, 24-hour reception and daily housekeeping service - combined with the freedom, flexibility and homely-feel of a private rental, without the risk, paperwork and stress of having to set everything up or taking a chance on quality.
Whatever the reason for or length of your stay, Dolphin Square can help you find the perfect place to call home.
You can also take advantage of the fantastic offers that we currently have available.