10 August 2020/ rent_commercial_property_guide

All classes of commercial real estate explained - UPDATED

Commercial properties to rent at Realla

To simplify planning procedures, the government categorised all commercial properties in the Town and Country Planning Order 1987. This legislation detailed several ‘use classes’ covering the various types of buildings used for business. Property owners and local authorities can now refer to the regulations when submitting and examining planning applications.

Certain business owners or developers may be able to change the ‘use’ of a building or complete work under existing ‘permitted development rights’, depending on the type of property. But you could need prior approval or planning permission before making changes to other buildings or their purposes.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the commercial property use classes can vary from country to country and have been amended over time. So, it’s always worth checking the regulations surrounding your building type before making any significant changes.

Overview of property use classes

As of September 2020, the property use classes run from Class B to Class F, and some classes have sub-categories (Classes A and D have been eliminated this year). The thorough classification system should make it easy for building developers to find the exact regulations for their property.

As a guide, here’s a rough rundown of the classes and the sectors they cover:


Type of property

Class B

Industrial and B2B properties

Class C

Hotels and buildings used for lodging

Class E

Shops, restaurants, offices, industrial properties, care centres and gyms

Class F

Leisure, education, and community properties

Sui Generis

Pubs, takeaway outlets, cinemas, and community halls


The final category is for businesses outside of these classes or those with multiple functions. Sui Generis covers all other types of commercial buildings.

Property use classes in England

Below, you’ll find a full list of all the property use classes and the types of businesses operating within them.

Class B2 covers general industrial properties

Class B2 represents properties used for industrial purposes outside of Class B1 and Classes B3 to B7 (below).

Classes B3-B7 cover the ‘Special Industrial Groups’

Any properties dealing with mining and quarrying, or chemicals, metals, acids, oils, or animal products belong to the Special Industrial Groups. Many records of the property use classes lump these categories together, as the original planning order distinguishes each group with a complex list of specialist industrial processes. We’ve gathered some of the core classifications for each group:

Class B3 covers alternative industrial processes

Any work is registrable under the ‘Alkali etc. Works Regulation Act 1906’ and not included in Classes B4-B7 fall into Class B3.

Class B4 covers metals

  • Smelting
  • Reducing ores
  • Forging metals or alloys
  • Recovering metal from scrap
  • Treating metal in acid

Class B5 covers building materials

  • Burning bricks or pipes
  • Creating cement
  • Heating minerals or slag
  • Processing pulverised fuel ash
  • Producing inorganic pigments

Class B6 covers oils

  • Blending oils
  • Producing pressure sprayed metal finishes
  • Producing rubber from scrap

Class B7 covers animal products

  • Boiling blood or bones
  • Extracting fat
  • Curing fish
  • Cleaning animal hair
  • Drying skins
  • Making manure
  • Breeding maggots

Class B8 covers storage and distribution

Any storage or distribution centres, including those operating in an open-air setting, come under Class B8.

Industrial properties to rent at Realla

Class C1 covers hotels and hostels

This classification is given to properties used for lodging purposes but excludes those which provide a high level of care for their guests. Such properties include:

  • Hotels
  • Guest houses
  • Boarding houses
  • Hostels

Class C2 covers residential properties

Class C2 buildings are properties offering accommodation, such as:

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Boarding schools
  • University halls
  • Residential training centres

Class C3 covers dwellings, houses, flats, and apartments

This classification refers to buildings used as a home, rather than a business. It includes properties even if they’re not the person’s main place of residence

Class C4 covers dwellings with 3-6 residents

If a building has between three and six occupants, it’s part of the C4 class.

Class E covers shops, restaurants, offices, industrial properties, care centres and gyms

Class E is the broadest category of all the property use classes. It’s not made up of sub-categories, but we’ve broken it down into a few different groupings below.


Most shops and stores come under Class E. This includes:

  • Hairdressing salons and barbers
  • Post Offices (but not sorting offices)
  • Pet shops
  • Showrooms
  • Retail warehouses
  • Ticket and travel agencies
  • Domestic product hire shops
  • Internet cafes
  • Dry cleaner shops
  • Funeral parlours

Retail properties for rent at Realla

Financial and professional services

This section relates to businesses offering a service to the general public. It includes:

  • Finance organisations (including banks and building societies)
  • Professional service organisations (excluding health and medical facilities)
  • Estate agencies
  • Employment agencies
  • Betting shops

Restaurants and cafes

Any business selling food or drink to be eaten on-site falls under the E category. This division excludes takeaway outlets, as these are covered by the Sui Generis class.

Health clinics, care centres and gyms

If a property is used as a medical clinic, crèche, daycare centre, gym or indoor sports facility, it falls under the Class E category.

Offices and industrial buildings

This section comprises:

  • Offices (excluding those used for financial or professional services)
  • Businesses researching and developing products or processes
  • Businesses carrying out industrial processes (except those which can’t be completed in a residential area without negatively impacting it through noise, vibration, smells, fumes, smoke, soot, ash, dust or grit)

Offices to rent at Realla

Class F1 covers education

Schools and training centres are F1 buildings. Properties with a similar purpose, like museums, libraries, exhibition halls, law courts and places of worship also come under this category.

Class F2 covers community halls, swimming baths and outdoor sports

This class is primarily for properties with local community use. Village halls, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, ice rinks and outdoor sports centres (excluding those involving motor vehicles or firearms) are classed as F2 buildings. Some shops also come under this category; they must be under 280 square metres in size, sell mostly essential goods and be at least one kilometre from another similar shop.

Sui Generis covers all other properties

The Latin phrase ‘sui generis’ translates to ‘of its own kind’, so buildings that don’t fit neatly into any of the other use classes are put into this one. Often, properties which span two or more classes are given the ‘sui generis’ classification too – apart from buildings with B2 use. Many properties in the Sui Generis class are entertainment, leisure and sports facilities.

Businesses in this category include:

  • Cinemas
  • Theatres
  • Music venues
  • Pubs
  • Takeaway businesses
  • Nightclubs
  • Dance halls
  • Bingo halls
  • Casinos
  • Amusement arcades
  • Taxi firms
  • Shops selling or displaying motor vehicles
  • Petrol stations
  • Scrap yards and waste disposal facilities

Extra help

If you’d like to learn more, you’ll find information on a range of different subjects in Realla’s commercial property guides.