An apartment, or flat, is a self-contained housing unit that occupies only part of a building. Such a building may be called an apartment building, especially if it consists of many apartments for rent. Apartments may be owned by an owner/occupier or rented by tenants.
The term apartment is favored in North America, whereas the term flat is commonly, but not exclusively, used in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and most Commonwealth countries. In Malaysian English, flat often denotes a housing block of lesser quality meant for lower-income groups, while apartment is more generic and may also include luxury condominiums.
Tenement law refers to the feudal basis of permanent property such as land or rents. May be found combined as in "Messuage or Tenement" to encompass all the land, buildings and other assets of a property.
In the US, some apartment-dwellers own their own apartments, either as co-ops, in which the residents own shares of a corporation that owns the building or development; or in condominiums, whose residents own their apartments and share ownership of the public spaces. Most apartments are in buildings designed for the purpose, but large older houses are sometimes divided into apartments. The word apartment connotes a residential unit or section in a building. In some locations, particularly the United States, the word denotes a rental unit owned by the building owner, and is not typically used for a condominium.
In the UK, some flat owners own a share in the company that owns the freehold of the building. This is commonly known as a "share of freehold" flat. The freehold company has the right to collect annual ground rents from each of the flat owners in the building. The freeholder can also develop or sell the building, subject to the usual planning and restrictions that might apply.
In some countries the word unit is a more general term referring to both apartments and rental business suites. The word is generally used only in the context of a specific building; e.g., "This building has three units" or "I'm going to rent a unit in this building", but not "I'm going to rent a unit somewhere." In Australia, a unit refers to flats, apartments or even semi-detached houses. Some buildings can be characterized as mixed use buildings, meaning part of the building is for commercial, business, or office use, usually on the first floor or first couple floors, and there are one or more apartments in the rest of the building, usually on the upper floors.
When there is no tenant occupying an apartment, the apartment owner or landlord is said to have a vacancy. For apartment landlords, each vacancy represents a loss of income from rent-paying tenants for the time the apartment is vacant (i.e., unoccupied). Landlords' objectives are often to minimize the vacancy rate for their units. The owner of the apartment, typically when transferring possession to the occupant, gives him/her the key to the apartment entrance and any other keys needed, such as a common key to the building or any other common areas and a mailbox key. When the occupant(s) move out, these keys are typically returned to the owner.
Apartments can be classified into several types. In the US the typical terms are a Studio, efficiency, bedsit, or bachelor style apartment. These all tend to be the smallest apartments with the cheapest rents in a given area. These kinds of apartment usually consist mainly of a large room which is the living, dining, and bedroom combined. There are usually kitchen facilities as part of this central room, but the bathroom is its own smaller separate room.
Moving up from the efficiencies are one-bedroom apartments, in which one bedroom is separate from the rest of the apartment. Then there are two-bedroom, three-bedroom, etc. apartments. Small apartments often have only one entrance.
Large apartments often have two entrances, perhaps a door in the front and another in the back. Depending on the building design, the entrance doors may be directly to the outside or to a common area inside, such as a hallway. Depending on location, apartments may be available for rent furnished with furniture or unfurnished into which a tenant usually moves in with their own furniture.
A garden apartment complex consists of low-rise apartment buildings built with landscaped grounds surrounding them. The apartment buildings are often arranged around courtyards that are open at one end. A garden apartment has some characteristics of a townhouse: each apartment has its own building entrance, or just a few apartments share a small foyer or stairwell at each building entrance. Unlike a townhouse, each apartment occupies only one level. Modern garden apartment buildings are never more than three stories high, since they typically don't have elevators (lifts). However, the first "garden apartment" buildings in the United States, developed in the early 20th century, were five stories high. Some garden apartment buildings place a one-car garage under each apartment. The grounds are more landscaped than for other modestly scaled apartments.
Another definition of "garden apartment" is a unit built half below grade or at ground level. The implication is that there is a view or direct access to a garden from the apartment, but this is not necessarily the case.
Laundry facilities may be found in a common area accessible to all the tenants in the building, or each apartment may have its own facilities. Depending on when the building was built and the design of the building, utilities such as water, heating, and electricity may be common for all the apartments in the building or separate for each apartment and billed separately to each tenant (however, many areas in the US have ruled it illegal to split a water bill among all the tenants, especially if a pool is on the premises). Outlets for connection to telephones are typically included in apartments. Telephone service is optional and is practically always billed separately from the rent payments. Cable television and similar amenities are extra also. Parking space(s), air conditioner, and extra storage space may or may not be included with an apartment. Rental leases often limit the maximum number of people who can reside in each apartment. On or around the ground floor of the apartment building, a series of mailboxes are typically kept in a location accessible to the public and, thus, to the mailman too. Every unit typically gets its own mailbox with individual keys to it. Some very large apartment buildings with a full-time staff may take mail from the mailman and provide mail-sorting service. Near the mailboxes or some other location accessible by outsiders, there may be a buzzer (equivalent to a doorbell) for each individual unit. In smaller apartment buildings such as two- or three-flats, or even four-flats, garbage is often disposed of in trash containers similar to those used at houses. In larger buildings, garbage is often collected in a common trash bin or dumpster. For cleanliness or minimizing noise, many lessors will place restrictions on tenants regarding keeping pets in an apartment.
In some parts of the world, the word apartment refers to a new purpose-built self-contained residential unit in a building, whereas the word flat means a converted self-contained unit in an older building. An industrial, warehouse, or commercial space converted to an apartment is commonly called a loft, although some modern lofts are built by design. An apartment consisting of the top floor of a high apartment building can be called a penthouse.
When part of a house is converted for the ostensible use of a landlord's family member, the unit may be known as an in-law apartment or granny flat, though these (sometimes illegally) created units are often occupied by ordinary renters rather than family members. In Canada these suites are commonly located in the basements of houses and are therefore normally called basement suites or "mother-in-law suites."
In Milwaukee vernacular architecture, a Polish flat is an existing small house or cottage that has been lifted up to accommodate the creation of a new basement floor housing a separate apartment, then set down again; thus becoming a modest two-story flat.
In Russia, a communal apartment («коммуналка») is a room with a shared kitchen and bath. A typical arrangement is a cluster of five or so apartments with their common kitchen and bathroom and their own front door, occupying a floor in a pre-Revolutionary mansion. Traditionally a room is owned by the government and assigned to a family on a semi-permanent basis. It is possible to "privatize" a room by paying a large sum of money to the government; then it can legally be sold.
In every community there are several types of multi-family housing, properties are typically put into one of four property classes. Each "class" of properties has a letter grade. These grades are used to help investors and real estate brokers speak a common language so they can understand a property's characteristics and condition quickly. They are as follows:
Class A properties are luxury units. They are usually less than 10 years old and are often new, upscale apartment buildings. Average rents are high, and they are generally located in desirable geographic areas. White-collar employees live in them and are usually renters by choice.
Class B properties can be 10 to 25 years old. They are generally well maintained and have a middle class tenant base of both white- and blue-collar workers. Some are renters by choice, and others by necessity.
Class C properties were built within the last 30 to 40 years. They generally have blue-collar and low- to moderate-income tenants, and the rents are below market. This is where you'll find many tenants that are renters "for life." On the other hand, some of their tenants are just starting out. And as they get better jobs, they work their way up the rental scale.
Class D properties are where you'll find many Section 8 in the US or government-subsidized housing tenants. They are generally positioned in lower socioeconomic areas.
In ancient Rome, the insulae (singular insula) were large apartment buildings where the lower and middle classes of Romans (the plebs) dwelled. The floor at ground level was used for tabernas, shops and businesses with living space on the higher floors. These buildings were usually up to six or seven stories. Some went as high as nine stories before height restrictions came into effect.
The medieval Egyptian city of Fustat housed many high-rise residential buildings, some seven stories tall that could reportedly accommodate hundreds of people. Al-Muqaddasi in the 10th century described them as resembling minarets, while Nasir Khusraw in the early 11th century described some of them rising up to 14 stories, with roof gardens on the top storey complete with ox-drawn water wheels for irrigating them.
In Scotland, the term 'tenement' lacks the pejorative connotations it carries elsewhere, and refers simply to any block of flats sharing a common central staircase and lacking an elevator, particularly those constructed prior to 1919. Tenements were, and continue to be, inhabited by a wide range of social classes and income groups.
During the 19th century tenements became the predominant type of new housing in Scotland's industrial cities, although they were very common in the Old Town in Edinburgh from the 15th century where they reached ten or eleven storeys high and in one case fourteen storeys. Built of sandstone or granite, Scottish tenements are usually three to five storeys in height, with two to four flats on each floor. (In contrast, industrial cities in England tended to favour "back-to-back" terraces of brick.) Scottish tenements are constructed in terraces of tenements, and each entrance within a block is referred to as a close or stair — both referring to the shared passageway to the individual flats. Flights of stairs and landings are generally designated common areas, and residents traditionally took turns to sweep clean the floors, and in Aberdeen in particular, took turns to make use of shared laundry facilities in the "back green" (garden or yard). It is now more common for cleaning of the common ways to be contracted out through a managing agent or "factor".
Tenements today are bought by a wide range of social types, including young professionals, older retiring people, and by absentee landlords, often for rental to students after they leave halls of residence managed by their institution. The National Trust for Scotland Tenement House museum in Glasgow offers an insight into the lifestyle of tenement dwellers.
Many multi-storey tower blocks were built in the UK after the Second World War. A number of these are being demolished and replaced with low-rise buildings or housing estates known in Scotland as housing schemes, often modern interpretations of the tenement.
In Glasgow, where Scotland's highest concentration of tenement dwellings can be found, the urban renewal projects of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s brought an end to the city's slums, which had primarily consisted of older tenements built in the early 19th century in which large extended families would live together in cramped conditions. They were replaced by high-rise blocks that, within a couple of decades, became notorious for crime and poverty. The Glasgow Corporation made many efforts to improve the situation, most successfully with the City Improvement Trust, which cleared the slums of the old town, replacing them with what they thought of as a traditional High Street, which remains an imposing townscape. (The City Halls and the Cleland Testimonial were part of this scheme). National government help was given following World War I when Housing Acts sought to provide "homes fit for heroes". Garden suburb areas, based on English models, such as Knightswood were set up. These proved too expensive, so a modern tenement, three stories high, slate roofed and built of reconstituted stone, was re-introduced and a slum clearance programme initiated to clear areas such as the Calton and the Garngad.
Post second World War II, more ambitious plans, known as the Bruce Plan, were made for the complete evacuation of slums to modern mid-rise housing developments on the outskirts of the city. However, central government refused to fund the plans, preferring instead to depopulate the city to a series of New Towns Again, economic considerations meant that many of the planned "New Town" amenities were never built in these areas. These housing estates, known as "schemes", came therefore to be widely regarded as unsuccessful; many, such as Castlemilk, were just dormitories well away from the centre of the city with no amenities, such as shops and public houses (deserts with windows, as Billy Connolly once put it). High rise living too started off with bright ambition - the Moss Heights are still desirable - (1950 - 1954) but fell prey to later economic pressure. Many of the later tower blocks were poorly designed and cheaply built and their anonymity caused some social problems.
In 1970 a team from Strathclyde University demonstrated that the old tenements had been basically sound, and could be given new life with replumbing with kitchens and bathroom. The Corporation acted on this principle for the first time in 1973 at the Old Swan Corner, Pollokshaws. Thereafter, Housing Action Areas were set up to renovate so-called slums. Later, privately owned tenements benefited from government help in "stone cleaning", revealing a honey-coloured sandstone behind the presumed "grey" tenemental facades. The policy of tenement demolition is now considered to have been short-sighted, wasteful and largely unsuccessful. Many of Glasgow's worst tenements were refurbished into desirable accommodation in the 1970s and 1980s and the policy of demolition is considered to have destroyed fine examples of a "universally admired architectural" style. The Glasgow Housing Association took ownership of the housing stock from the city council on 7 March 2003, and has begun a £96 million clearance and demolition programme to clear and demolish many of the high-rise flats.
High-rise apartment buildings were built in the Yemeni city of Shibam in the 16th century. The houses of Shibam are all made out of mud bricks, but about 500 of them are tower houses, which rise 5 to 11 stories high, with each floor having one or two apartments. This technique of building was implemented in order to protect residents from Bedouin attacks. While Shibam has existed for around 2,000 years, most of the city's houses come mainly from the 16th century.
Shibam is often called "the oldest skyscraper-city in the world" or "Manhattan of the desert", and is the earliest example of urban planning based on the principle of vertical construction, as it was the first city to consist entirely of high-rise residential buildings. Some of them were over 100 feet (30 m) high, thus being the tallest mudbrick apartment buildings in the world to this day.
In 1839, the first New York City tenement was built, housing mainly poor immigrants. The tenements were breeding grounds for outlaws, juvenile delinquents, and organized crime. Muckraker journalist Jacob Riis wrote in How the Other Half Lives:
The New York tough may be ready to kill where his London brother would do little more than scowl; yet, as a general thing he is less repulsively brutal in looks. Here again the reason may be the same: the breed is not so old. A few generations more in the slums, and all that will be changed.
Tenements were also known for their price gouging rent. How the Other Half Lives notes one tenement district:
Blind Man's Alley bear its name for a reason. Until little more than a year ago its dark burrows harbored a colony of blind beggars, tenants of a blind landlord, old Daniel Murphy, whom every child in the ward knows, if he never heard of the President of the United States. "Old Dan" made a big fortune--he told me once four hundred thousand dollars-- out of his alley and the surrounding tenements, only to grow blind himself in extreme old age, sharing in the end the chief hardship of the wretched beings whose lot he had stubbornly refused to better that he might increase his wealth. Even when the Board of Health at last compelled him to repair and clean up the worst of the old buildings, under threat of driving out the tenants and locking the doors behind them, the work was accomplished against the old man's angry protests. He appeared in person before the Board to argue his case, and his argument was characteristic. "I have made my will," he said. "My monument stands waiting for me in Calvary. I stand on the very brink of the grave, blind and helpless, and now (here the pathos of the appeal was swept under in a burst of angry indignation) do you want me to build and get skinned, skinned? These people are not fit to live in a nice house. Let them go where they can, and let my house stand." In spite of the genuine anguish of the appeal, it was downright amusing to find that his anger was provoked less by the anticipated waste of luxury on his tenants than by distrust of his own kind, the builder. He knew intuitively what to expect. The result showed that Mr. Murphy had gauged his tenants correctly.
The Dakota (1884) was one of the first luxury apartment buildings in New York City. The majority, however, remained tenements.
Many reformers, such as Upton Sinclair and Jacob Riis, pushed for reforms in tenement dwellings. As a result in 1901, New York state passed a law called the New York State Tenement House Act to improve the conditions in tenements.
Some significant developments in architectural design of apartment buildings came out of the 1950s and 60s. Among them were groundbreaking designs in the 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments (1951), New Century Guild (1961), Marina City (1964) and Lake Point Tower (1968).
Apartment buildings are multi-story buildings where three or more residences are contained within one structure. In more urban areas, apartments close to the downtown area have the benefits of proximity to jobs and/or public transportation. However, prices per square foot are often much higher than in suburban areas.
The distinction between rental apartments and condominiums is that while rental buildings are owned by a single entity and rented out to many, condominiums are owned individually, while their owners still pay a monthly or yearly fee for building upkeep. Condominiums are often leased by their owner as rental apartments. A third alternative, the cooperative apartment building (or "co-op"), acts as a corporation with all of the tenants as shareholders of the building. Tenants in cooperative buildings do not own their apartment, but instead own a proportional number of shares of the entire cooperative. As in condominiums, cooperators pay a monthly fee for building upkeep. Co-ops are common in cities such as New York, and have gained some popularity in other larger urban areas in the U.S.
In the United States, tenement is a label usually applied to the less expensive, more basic rental apartment buildings in older sections of large cities. Many of these apartment buildings are "walk-ups" without an elevator, and some have shared bathing facilities, though this is becoming less common.
Apartments were popular in Canada, particularly in urban centres like Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal in the 1950s to 1970s. By the 1980s, many multi-unit buildings were being constructed as condominiums instead of apartments, and both are now very common. Specifically in Toronto, high-rise apartments and condominiums have been spread around the city, giving almost every major suburb a skyline.
The slang term dingbat has been coined to describe cheap urban apartment buildings from the 1950s and 1960s with unique and often wacky façades to differentiate themselves within a full block of apartments. They are often stilted, and with parking spots underneath.
In Australia, the term "flats" is used for lower income apartments, whereas the word apartment (with the exception of older style buildings) is almost always used for buildings of higher quality or character. Newer buildings are called apartments if they have an elevator. The term condominium or condo is rarely used in Australia despite attempts by developers to market it. A high-rise apartment building is commonly referred to as a Residential tower or Apartment tower in Australia.
Apartment buildings in Australia are typically managed by a Body corporate or "owners corporation" in which owners pay a monthly fee to provide for common maintenance and help cover future repair. Many apartments are owned through Strata title. Due to legislation, Australian banks will either apply Loan to value ratios of over 70% for strata titles of less than 50 square meters, the Big Four Australian Banks will not loan at all for strata titles of less than 30 square meters. These are usually classified as studio apartments or student accommodation. Australian legislation enforces a minimum 2.4m floor-ceiling height which differentiates apartment buildings from office buildings.
In Australia, apartment living is a popular lifestyle choice for DINKY, yuppies, university students and more recently and empty nesters, however rising land values in the big cities in recent years has seen an increase in families living in apartments. In Melbourne and Sydney apartment living is sometimes not a matter of choice for the many socially disadvantaged people who often end up in public housing towers.
Australia has a relatively recent history in apartment buildings. Terrace houses were the early response to density development, though the majority of Australians lived in fully detached houses. Apartments of any kind were legislated against in the Parliament of Queensland as part of the Undue Subdivision of Land Prevention Act 1885.
The earliest apartment buildings were in the major cities of Sydney and Melbourne as the response to fast rising land values. Melbourne Mansions on Collins Street, Melbourne (now demolished), built in 1906 for mostly wealthy residents is believed by many to be the earliest. Today the oldest surviving self contained apartment buildings are in the St Kilda area including the Fawkner Mansions (1910), Majestic Mansions (1912 as a boarding house) and the Canterbury (1914 - the oldest surviving self buildings contained flats). Kingsclere, built in 1912 is believed to be the earliest apartment building in Sydney and still survives.
During the interwar years, apartment building continued in inner Melbourne (particularly in areas such as St Kilda and South Yarra), Sydney (particularly in areas such as Potts Point, Darlinghust and Kings Cross) and in Brisbane (in areas such as New Farm, Fortitude Valley and Spring Hill).
Post World War II, with the Australian Dream apartment buildings went out of vogue and flats were seen as accommodation only for the poor. Walk-up "flats" (without an elevator) of two to three storeys however were common in the middle suburbs of cities for lower income groups.
The main exceptions were Sydney and the Gold Coast, Queensland where apartment development continued for more than half a century. In Sydney a limited geography and highly sought after waterfront views (Sydney Harbour and beaches such as Bondi) made apartment living socially acceptable. While on the Gold Coast views of the ocean, proximity to the beach and a large tourist population made apartments a popular choice. Since the 1960s, these cities maintained much higher population densities than the rest of Australia through the acceptance of apartment buildings.
In other cities apartment building was almost solely restricted to public housing. Public housing in Australia was common in the larger cities, particularly in Melbourne (by the Housing Commission of Victoria) where a huge number of hi-rise housing commission flats were built between the 1950s and 1970s by successive governments as part of an urban renewal program. Areas affected included Fitzroy, Flemington, Collingwood, Carlton, Richmond and Prahran. Similar projects were run in Sydney's lower socio economic areas like Redfern.
In Melbourne in the 1990s a trend began for apartment buildings without the requirement of spectacular views. As a continuation of the gentrification of the inner city, a fashion became New York "loft" style apartments and a large stock of old warehouses and old abandoned office buildings in and around the CBD became the target of developers. The trend of adaptive reuse extended to conversion of old churches and schools. Similar warehouse conversions and gentrification began in Brisbane suburbs such as Teneriffe, Queensland and Fortitude Valley and in Sydney in areas such as Ultimo. As supply of buildings for conversion ran out, reproduction and post modern style apartments followed. The popularity of these apartments also stimulated a boom in the construction of new hi-rise apartment buildings in inner cities. This was particularly the case in Melbourne which was fuelled by official planning policies (Postcode 3000), making the CBD the fastest growing, population wise in the country. Apartment building in the Melbourne metropolitan area has also escalated with the advent of the Melbourne 2030 planning policy. Urban renewal areas like Docklands, Southbank, St Kilda Road and Port Melbourne are now predominately apartments. There has also been a sharp increase in the amount of student apartment buildings in areas such as Carlton in Melbourne.
Today, residential buildings Eureka Tower and Q1 are the tallest in the country. In many cases, apartments in inner city areas of the major cities can cost much more than much larger houses in the outer suburbs.
There are Australian cities, such as Gold Coast, Queensland, which are inhabited predominately by apartment dwellers.
Some apartment buildings have high levels of security. For example, to enter a high-security building, a person must validate their smartcard at the door. In some apartments while at the lift the smartcard would be used again to be able to press the button for lift access. Finally, the person walks towards apartment and uses their key to unlock the entrance door. This 2 or 3-tier security will in most cases prevent home invasions and theft.
Apartments are also more convenient than owning a house as the general maintenance and landscaping is taken care of by the owner.
An apartment (or flat in Britain and most other Commonwealth countries) is a building where people pay the owner money in order to live there. The owner of the apartment is called the landlord and the people who live in the apartment are called the tenants. The money that the tenants pay in order to live there is called the rent or the rent money. "Rent" also means to pay to live in an apartment; the tenant "rents" the apartment from the landlord.
An apartment building has many apartments in it. In an apartment building, each apartment is a separate room or set of rooms for people to live in. Sometimes an apartment will only be one small room, and tenants will have to share other rooms like the bathroom and kitchen. Other times, tenants will only share an entrance and a hallway with doors that go to many apartments.
An apartment complex is a group of apartment buildings. In an apartment complex, all of the apartment buildings are made in a similar way.
In many apartments, the tenants only pay the landlord for renting the apartment, and they have to pay other people to provide utilities like electricity and heat. In some apartments, especially the ones in apartment complexes, the tenants will have to pay more to rent the apartment, but in return the landlord will give them things like utilities, laundry rooms (where people wash their clothing), exercise rooms, and parking spaces for the tenant's car. Many people like this because it means they do not have to keep track of as many bills every month.
Apartment buildings are more common in cities than single apartments or houses, because there is less room in a city to fit buildings. Building a house for one family in a dense city would cost an enormous amount of money compared to building a house outside of a city.