What's the difference between renting an apartment and a condo?

By Estelle on April 22nd, 2019

With all of the housing options available to residents in big cities, how can you make sure you're looking for and finding the right type of rental for your lifestyle?

There are a range of rental options in the city. You can choose to rent units in detached houses, apartment buildings or condominiums.

Sometimes, you can’t really tell the difference between an apartment complex and a condominium community, because high rises can easily look the same. There are some key differences between these rental options, however, which we’ll explain below.

Renting an apartment unit

Renting an apartment is something many young adults look forward to as they approach real adulthood, and not many young people are able to afford a mortgage on their own.

In a proper apartment building, that is, one that has more than a handful of units and isn’t simply a divided family home, you’ll be paying rent to the building owner or their property management staff. The larger the apartment building, the more amenities you can expect. It’s important to note that apartment amenities will be basic and scaled back in comparison to a condominium.

Depending on how organized the apartment management is, you’ll be set up with a lease once you’ve qualified for the rental. Unless there are extra maintenance fees that everyone pays, renters will usually be responsible for their utilities and monthly rent.

Straightforward amenities, if available, will include items like parking (perhaps at an additional cost), a laundry room, party room, small gym, garden and/or outdoor space(s).

If something in your unit needs repair or replacement -- items like appliances, bathroom equipment and other installations -- you’ll be making contact with the building’s management company for the next steps.

Alternatively, you might receive a tenant handbook that contains all of this information.

Renting a condominium unit

Renting a condominium unit is fundamentally different from renting a unit in a dedicated apartment building. You won’t be renting the unit through a building management team, you’ll be renting directly from the unit owner or their personal property management agent.

There are also two levels of ownership present in all condominium buildings.

At the first layer, there’s the unit owner who you'll be in direct contact with. The second layer, which is unique to condominium buildings, houses the condo corporation that owns and regulates the building itself.

The owner of the unit has to follow the bylaws outlined by the condo corporation and must also pay condo fees with all of the other owners in the building to cover ongoing maintenance. The condo fees could be billed separately to you as a tenant or included in your monthly rent.

Sometimes, owners buy condo units and use them exclusively as investment or rental properties, meaning the owner could be nowhere near the unit itself. This may make communication difficult and payments electronic, but usually, condo landlords will establish proper contact protocols or hire a property manager that can be closer to the unit.

Because there are these maintenance fees that go on to cover the shared spaces and amenities of the condominium, you can expect to get more out of your building than you would in an apartment complex most of the time.

Condo buildings tend to be newer and are therefore tailored to the modern lifestyle. This means you can expect to have a wealth of gym and outdoor amenities; enhanced security, storage and parking; plus the possibility of spa-like pool and sauna rooms depending on the building. You may be able to access party rooms, homework or play rooms, and shared office spaces too!

When the difference matters

The difference between renting a condo and apartment unit aren’t too drastic. You’re still likely to end up in a high rise, preferably with a nice view.

With a condo rental, however, you can count on having newer appliances located within a newer build with more amenities. If this type of lifestyle is what you’re after, you’re likely to pay a premium for these added comforts.