What is the Difference Between a Condominium and an Apartment?

What is the Difference Between a Condominium and an Apartment?

The Difference is the Type of Ownership

While many people use the words ‘condo’ and ‘apartment’ interchangeably, there is a fundamental difference between the two.  That difference is in the type of ownership.

What is an Apartment?

Webster’s Dictionary describes an apartment as “a room or a group of related rooms, among similar sets in one building, designed for use as a dwelling.”  Essentially, an apartment is a dwelling, typically of one floor, where people or persons live.

What is a Condominium?

A condominium, or condo,  is not just a residence.  It’s a type of home-ownership.  Essentially, a condominium is a type of property where you own a residence and co-own a share of the community property or ‘common elements’ with other people.  In fact, while most people think of a condominium as being similar to an apartment, a condominium can be an office building, a townhome or a residence in a multi-unit building.

Common Elements & Community Amenities

So what are common elements?  Common Elements are the areas in your community that you do not own exclusively.  These may include amenity spaces, such as a fitness centre, a party room, and a pool.  It also includes other jointly owned community areas we don’t often think about, such as a parking garage, a roof, hallways and exterior landscaping.  While balconies and terraces may be attached to your individual residence, these areas are considered  Exclusive Use Common Areas.  This means that while you have exclusive use of the balcony or terrace, they are actually subject to the rules and regulations of your community by-laws.

Maintenance Fees

Often referred to as ‘common area expenses’, maintenance fees are a monthly charge to each suite in the community that is collected by the Condominium Corporation to cover the costs of those shared amenity spaces.  This includes the utilities, regular upkeep, management, administration and insurance for the common element areas.

The Condominium Corporation

Another aspect of condominium ownership that differs from an apartment is the Condominium Corporation.  While it is possible to purchase an apartment in some buildings, you are only buying your own residence.  When you purchase a condominium, on the other hand, you own the residence where you live and own a share of the community’s common areas and assets.   This shared interest in the property is governed by the legal entity of the condominium corporation, which represents the interests of all the owners and is created to administer the operation, maintenance, and repair of the community’s shared amenities and assets.

The Board of Directors

Another difference between apartment and condominium ownership is the administration of the community.  When you purchase an apartment, you are buying only the residence itself.  Someone else owns the building or community where you reside.   In a condominium, the community is managed by a Board of Directors, typically residents in the community, who are elected by you, to manage the day-to-day operations of the condominium corporation and serve the interests of those living within the community.

The Difference In Community

Another essential difference between condominiums and apartments is the type of community. A condominium is not just a residence or a place to reside.  It is ownership of the place you call home and the shared ownership of your entire community.   It is this distinction that affords owners a greater voice in the governance and management of their communities.