Condo vs. Co-op: What’s the Difference?

If you are a first-time renter in a big city and are looking for condos and co-ops as housing options beyond standard apartments, the issue of condos and co-ops is probably on the top of your mind. Explore what each type of accommodation is and the main differences between these choices in order to find the best accommodation to rent for your situation and personal preferences.

What is a condo?

A condo is owned by one person who can then rent it out if they wish. Renting a condo gives you access to the apartment / condo itself, but you also have access to some of the common shared amenities. These may include a swimming pool, reception hall, lounge and on-site gym.

The owner of the condo must pay dues to an association of owners, also known as HOA or condo council. The residents elect the members of the HOA. The council then enforces the rules of the community and manages the maintenance of the shared condo facilities. As a tenant, you may have to pay these HOA fees yourself, although in some cases the landlord may continue to pay them.

What is a cooperative?

The term “cooperative” is the abbreviation for “cooperative” housing, meaning where owners get shares in a company instead of owning specific units. Someone who buys a co-op share gets their opinion on decisions related to the building (like decorating the roof or letting a new tenant move in). However, that means they also have to share the cost of most of the expenses – they’re part-owners, after all. Co-operatives also have boards of directors that are fully self-managed or managed by members elected from among residents.

The unique structure of cooperatives has implications for potential tenants. Since the shareholders own the building and no unit is owned by an individual, many co-ops do not allow tenants. While it is possible to find a co-op building that allows tenants in some cases, you may have to pay a significant application fee and agree to set limits on the length of the leases if you are renting. Technically, you are subletting instead of outright renting, because you are renting a unit to the shareholder who has a lease on a particular space. You will also need to follow the building rules as a tenant.

Condo vs cooperative: what’s the difference?

Co-ops and condos have some important differences. The big distinctions for tenants lie in approvals, required payments and rules.


Co-ops get complicated quickly when it comes to the approval process. (It’s also a big difference between renting an apartment or a condo.) The co-op board has to approve anyone who buys shares, which often becomes a lengthy process, as shareholders assume a certain financial responsibility for the whole building. This results in a rigid approval process for potential tenants.

Homeowners may still need board approval to move into a condo, but the process is, in general, easier for condos than for co-ops. The owner is only responsible for his own unit in a condo, so the board is usually not as concerned with all the details of a person’s financial situation. As a tenant, this usually means that you will only be dealing with the individual owner when renting a condo, which can lead to a greater willingness to compromise in finalizing a rental agreement than you would get from renting a condo. ‘a cooperative or even a standard apartment lease. .

Payments required

The owner of a co-op must pay a maintenance fee, which is a monthly co-op fee. This comes in addition to the cost of the actions. These fees generally cover:

  • Underlying mortgage payments (most of the maintenance fee usually goes here)
  • Property tax, distributed among residents according to the number of shares of each resident
  • Operating costs, which typically translate into utilities, equipment and other maintenance costs

Co-op owners may also have to pay a portion of everything from building repairs and decorating to special appraisals, and this can include fixing something in a neighbor’s unit. Each shareholder has a stake in the maintenance of the entire building – and, by extension, in paying for that maintenance.

In addition, co-ops can pay additional maintenance costs to shareholders who sublet their unit. So, for tenants, these charges are usually reflected in the monthly rent. If the fees change during your lease, the shareholder you are subletting might try to pass them on to you by asking for a higher rent if you want to renew.

Condo owners also pay monthly fees, although condo fees are split differently from co-op maintenance fees. Condo owners generally pay for themselves:

  • Property taxes
  • Unit repair
  • Utilities

Next are the monthly condo fees, known as HOA fees or common charges. These generally cover:

  • Equipment maintenance
  • Building running costs
  • Repair of buildings

This charge may also increase depending on the decisions of the condominium council. In addition, special evaluation fees may come into play for condo owners. For condo renters, this often means additional condo fees on top of the regular rent. You will want to check before you sign a lease whether or not the landlord will pay their HOA fees or whether that responsibility will lie with you.


Co-ops and condos require that everyone obey rules that hold all residents accountable to other residents. However, you will find some differences as to who actually sets these rules.

A cooperative owner is essentially part of the management of the building. If you live in a cooperative, you are subject to the underlying exclusive lease of your unit as well as the rules and regulations of the cooperative building. This also goes for unspoken rules, so try to get a feel for the culture of the building before you sign, even as a tenant.

As a co-owner of shared amenities, condo owners also get their say on community matters, but the elected condo board has a say in most decisions. Big decisions (for example, installing a swimming pool) usually require the approval of all owners. The HOA will also create rules that govern life at the condo, such as grounds maintenance rules. Again, for renters, this means making sure that you are aware of the rules that you will need to follow throughout the community if you decide to rent a condo.

Understanding the differences between condos and co-ops will help you make the right decision for your future home. If you’re looking to rent a condo or co-op, check out the thousands of spaces available for rent on Zumper.

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