Legal Advice

Purchasing a Home? Know the Distinctions Between Various Types of Properties

Purchasing a Home? Know the Distinctions Between Various Types of Properties by James F. Leonick

Purchasing any type of residence — a single family home, co-op, condo, or a townhome within a homeowner’s association — requires knowledge and expertise. From a legal standpoint, the person or entity responsible for the maintenance and repairs is dependent on the type of the property.

Recently, I addressed the Metropolitan Association of Home Inspectors in Melville, Long Island. At their meeting, I detailed how responsibilities are broken down between the corporation, the association, etc. and the individual unit occupant.


Ownership is based upon having a certificate of shares in the corporation and a long-term lease for the apartment. However, the owner does not actually own any real estate — the corporation does.

Due to that distinction, the shareholder (you as the potential owner) is responsible for maintaining, repairing, and restoring the inside of the apartment including: 

  • Appliances;
  • Paint and wallpaper;
  • Flooring;
  • Window coverings;
  • Undersink plumbing (but not supply lines inside the wall);
  • Flexible gas lines (but not hard lines in the wall); and
  • Circuit breakers.

In the event that a pipe bursts in the wall resulting in mold development, the corporation would be responsible, not the unit owner. Generally, windows, sliding doors, or other things that flow are excluded from the corporation’s responsibilities.


The condominium owner owns real estate and has their own real estate tax bill. However, they may share a common wall with another unit owner. The condominium documents describe who is responsible for maintaining items in the common wall.

Unit owners are responsible for anything inside the individual unit, including plumbing and electric.

Common charges are paid by unit owners to insure, repair, and maintain common areas. The condominium is responsible for common areas including: 

  • Stairwells; 
  • Courtyards;
  • Pools; and
  • Clubhouses.

Home Inspections

Retained by buyers of single-family homes, condominiums, or co-ops, home inspectors check mechanical systems, review structural issues, and highlight any defects that could become problems with a property.

It is important for people who are purchasing homes to understand the distinctions between the various types of properties — the same is true for home inspectors. The particular group of home inspectors that I presented to work in all five boroughs of New York City and throughout Long Island, and were very interested in the differences between co-ops, condos, and single family homes as it relates to the work that they do.

When you are considering purchasing a home, it is important to consult an attorney who has expertise in real estate. As general counsel, I have represented a Suffolk County, NY co-op complex and, as a result, have particular expertise in co-ops. In addition, I have represented purchasers and sellers of single-family homes and condominiums for over 28 years.

Please contact us with your questions today!

James F. Leonick

James F. Leonick
Leonick Law, P.L.L.C.
TEL: (631) 486-9500


Subscribe to our newsletter