The Condo Conundrum: What Renting a Condo Does for You (Renting a Condo vs Apartment)
More and more of Toronto’s rental housing is coming in the form of condominiums, for rent by private or corporate owners. But aside from the name, what’s the difference between renting a condo vs apartment for your next move?
There are tangible differences between apartment rental and condominium rental to weigh when making your choice of applications. Here are five factors to consider when asking whether a condominium rental is right for you.
- Condominium buildings tend to be newer builds
Although with the new year—and UrbanCorp’s cancellation of two downtown condo projects in favour of building rental apartments—there’s been a decided shift back toward newly built apartment buildings, a Toronto condominium will generally be newer and built with more modern materials than an apartment building.
“Purpose-built apartment construction has been almost non-existent the last few decades across the GTA,” says the Toronto Star, and Shaun Hildebrand, vice-president of Urbanation, a research group specifically focused on the condominium industry, backs that up, saying that privately owned rental condos have soared to take up 99% of Toronto’s new rental supply.
What that means for you? Rental condominiums are less likely to have the issues associated with building age: Wear and tear in common areas, occasional pest issues, water pipe corrosion, disruptive noise due to ongoing heavy maintenance, less efficient heating and ventilation systems, and more.
However, newer rental condominiums can lack some of the features of older trends in building design: The insulating brick and plaster of Toronto’s oldest rental stock provides less natural light than current glass-walled condominiums, but keeps the cold out—and heat in—like magic and ensures low hydro bills.
As well, there’s a sweet spot for condominium rental: It takes a new condo a few years to work the kinks out, construction-wise. A condominium unit that’s less than three years old may be still discovering its maintenance problems, while slightly older units can usually be relied upon for the minimum of maintenance trouble.
- Condominium rentals can bundle your utility bills
As discussed in previous posts here, one of the major draws of condominium living is that you can bundle your utility bills into easy-to-pay, easy-to-budget-for condo fees, set by the condo board to a fixed monthly rate.
While the words “utilities included” used to be standard in Toronto rental listings, with the advent of the provincial government’s smart meter legislation in 2007, rental apartments that pick up the hydro bill have all but vanished. Instead, they’ve been replaced by individual unit meters that gauge your hydro usage individually.
If you’re a renter who’s dedicated to conserving hydro, the apartment option may be for you. But if not—or if you worry about paying winter heating bills on a rental apartment you can’t personally reinsulate—the pooled resource of monthly condo fees, rolled into your rent, can be a great source for peace of mind.
- Security matters
While apartment buildings with a security desk and weekend patrols are not uncommon, on the whole, condominium buildings have a consistently stronger game when it comes to security and front desk coverage.
The reasons are simple: Rental buildings, especially those owned as investment properties, won’t have the same stake in a good security presence that a condominium board made up of—and funded by—people who own units and live in the building will. Condominium boards allow residents to set the security budget, and have a stronger motivation to allot the security presence that’s necessary for the neighbourhood they call home.
As well, an active and engaged security presence can be a massive help for in-building disputes. A noisy party next door can be calmed down with one call to the front desk, rather than late-night hunting for a superintendent’s phone number—who may live offsite—or going directly to the police.
- Building for ownership means quality appliances
While condominiums owned by investors make up a significant portion of the rental stock in downtown Toronto, they’re not built to rent—which means a higher quality, overall, of appliances.
Condominium kitchens are overwhelmingly more likely to come with new, energy-efficient, organized fridges; easy-to-clean glasstop stoves; and compact dishwashers, which don’t appear in any but the most luxurious apartment rentals. This extends into the bathroom, where low-flow toilets and adjustable showerheads are increasingly common features. As well as using less energy and water, newer appliances will perform better, cook more evenly, clean more easily, and give you infinitely fewer maintenance problems from day-to-day use.
Architectural design geared for ownership also means another vital perk: the majority of rental condos will provide ensuite laundry rooms. There’s a significant savings in not having to hoard your quarters—or fill a chip card—to do laundry in a common laundry room or outside laundromat, and the convenience of a washer and dryer that’s always available, no matter what hour of the night, can turn an early-morning-meeting wardrobe emergency into a minor before-bed fix.
- Maintenance with the pride of ownership
The most intangible—and most important—bonus to renting in a condominium building is the attention that pride of ownership brings. A condominium building is maintained by its owners, rather than a third-party management company or REIT, and owners take more consistent care of their common areas—and in the case of your landlord, of your unit in particular.
While common maintenance tasks can fall behind in a rental apartment building—unpainted walls, unreplaced carpets, sidewalks going unsalted in the winter—maintenance standards are often higher in a condominium building.
Ultimately, renting in a condominium building can be rental with the advantage of an ownership ethic: clean, bright, and with neighbours who will appreciate the common areas like it’s their home—because it is.