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Apartment Glossary

For those who are unfamiliar with the parlance of the local apartment market, Trebach Realty, Inc. has compiled the following list of specialized words and their definitions.


BALCONY A platform that protrudes from the wall of a building and is enclosed by a low, protective railing or wall. If a balcony is too small for furniture or to walk around on, but is still big enough to stand on, it may be called a “Juliet balcony.”

COMMON CHARGES The monthly charge that condominium-unit owners pay for running and maintaining the common elements of their building or housing complex (such as grounds, lobbies, and elevators as well as other amenities). Common charges are based on each unit owner’s proportionate share of the common expenses. Unit owners usually send their common charges to a MANAGEMENT COMPANY hired by the condo’s board of managers.

CONDO (CONDOMINIUM) An apartment building or housing complex in which the living units are owned individually and the common areas (such as hallways, stairwells, sidewalks, etc.) are owned jointly by all the unit owners. Condos, like private houses, are real property, with few if any restrictions on whether and to whom the owner can rent or sell the unit. Condo-unit owners are responsible for their own mortgages and property taxes. (See COMMON CHARGES; see also CO-OP.)

CO-OP (COOPERATIVE) An arrangement in which a buyer acquires shares in the corporation that owns an apartment building or housing complex. Those shares entitle the shareholder to a proprietary lease to occupy a particular dwelling unit. Co-ops require buyers to go through a board-approval process that examines, among other things, their financial status. And co-ops usually enact more house rules, typically limiting the ability to sublet or, perhaps, regulating the presence of pets in the building. (See MAINTENANCE; see also CONDO.)

DINETTE A small space or alcove, usually in or near the kitchen, that can be used as an informal dining area.

DUPLEX An apartment that has rooms on two floors.

HALF BATH A half bathroom, also called a POWDER ROOM, has only a toilet and a sink.

FLIP TAX A transfer fee paid to a co-op corporation on the sale of an apartment in order to generate additional cash for operating and maintaining the co-op building. The flip tax is usually paid by the seller. In most instances, the flip tax is calculated by using a set percentage of the sale price, often between 1 and 3 percent, or a set number of dollars per share. But in some co-ops, the surcharge is a flat fee or a percentage of the seller's profit on the sale. Other methods of generating funds for a building might include move-in and move-out fees, application-review fees and apartment-alteration fees.

FULL BATH A full bathroom has a toilet, a sink, and a bathtub or shower.

GUARANTOR One who agrees to be responsible for the obligation of another. Some landlords will accept an otherwise unqualified tenant if a guarantor with much stronger credentials agrees to be responsible for the full performance of the lease by the tenant.

JUNIOR FOUR (JR4) A one-bedroom apartment with a dining area that is large enough to use as a small second bedroom or office.

KITCHENETTE A very small, compact kitchen.


LEASE An agreement, usually in writing, granting possession and use of property for a set period of time in exchange for rent. The tenant to whom the property is leased is called the LESSEE, and the landlord who owns the property is called the LESSOR. In Riverdale, as in the rest of the city, the typical lease period for rental apartments is one or two years. Under New York law, leases for more than a year must be in writing to be enforceable.

LEASE RIDER An attachment to a lease that adds to or amends it.


MAINTENANCE The monthly fee levied by a co-op corporation against each of its shareholders to pay for their proportionate share of the co-op’s property taxes, underlying mortgage, and operating expenses. Shareholders usually send their maintenance fee to a MANAGEMENT COMPANY hired by the co-op’s board of directors.


MANAGEMENT COMPANY A firm hired to handle the details of running a co-op, condo or other multiunit building or complex; also called a MANAGING AGENT.

MORTGAGE A legal document in which an owner pledges a property to a lender as collateral for a loan. The lender or creditor is the MORTGAGEE, and the borrower or debtor is the MORTGAGOR. The mortgage document usually provides for amortization, which is the gradual repayment of the principal (loan amount) along with interest.


PICTURE WINDOW A large, stationary window, usually single-paned and often located between two narrower windows to afford a broad outside view. Picture windows are a popular feature of many POSTWAR apartments and houses.

POSTWAR A building constructed after the Second World War (1939-45). Postwar apartments tend to be more plain-faced and less ornate than prewars, and often include balconies, large picture windows, and through-the-wall or central air-conditioning.


PREWAR A building constructed before the Second World War (1939-45). Prewar apartments often feature high ceilings, traditional moldings, arched entryways, hardwood floors, sunken living rooms, and windowed kitchens.

PROPRIETARY LEASE A lease from a co-op corporation granting a shareholder the right to occupy a particular dwelling unit. (See CO-OP.)

SECURITY DEPOSIT Money that a tenant deposits with a landlord to guarantee payment of rent and to offset damage beyond normal wear and tear. In New York City, the amount of the security deposit is usually one or two months’ rent.

SQUARE FOOTAGE The area within a room, apartment, or building, calculated by multiplying length by width. In real estate, square footage is a rather fluid concept that is subject to a variety of interpretations by brokers, appraisers, developers, and architects. In co-ops, for example, square footage is often calculated as the floor space inside the perimeter walls of the apartment, including space taken up by interior walls. And in condos, the measuring typically starts at the exterior of the facade wall and often includes part of the corridors and stairwells. Unlike a textbook geometry problem, square footage of an apartment is always an estimate. If precise dimensions are important to you, Trebach Realty, Inc. recommends that you use a tape measure to make your own evaluation.

STUDIO An apartment consisting of one main room, a kitchen or kitchenette, and a private bathroom. If it has a separate kitchen, a studio can be described as a two-room apartment since the kitchen is considered one room. An ALCOVE STUDIO, also called an L-SHAPED STUDIO, has an additional nook that can be used as a dining or sleeping area.

SUBLEASE An agreement whereby a tenant grants possession and use of all or part of the leased property to another party, who is known as the sublessee, subtenant or undertenant. Subletting my be prohibited by the original lease or require written permission from the landlord. In a sublease, the original tenant, who is known as the sublessor or overtenant, remains directly responsible for making the rent payments to the landlord. In co-ops, there may be rules that prohibit, limit, or otherwise control subletting.

TRIPLEX An apartment that has rooms on three floors.

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