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An apartment (American English), or flat (British EnglishIndian English), is a self-contained housing unit (a type of residential real estate) that occupies only part of a building, generally on a single story. There are many names for these overall buildings, see below. The housing tenure of apartments also varies considerably, from large-scale public housing, to owner occupancy within what is legally a condominium (strata title or commonhold), to tenants renting from a private landlord (see leasehold estate).

“Flat” vs “apartment”[edit]

Both words refer to a self-contained residential unit with its own front door, kitchen, toilet, and bathroom. In some parts of the world, the word apartment refers to a purpose-built unit in a building, whereas the word flat means a converted unit in an older building, usually a big house.[citation needed] In other places the terms are interchangeable.

The term apartment is favored in North America (although in some cities flat is used for a unit which is part of a house containing two or three units, typically one to a floor[1][citation needed]). In the UK, the term apartment is more usual in professional real estate and architectural circles where otherwise the term flat is used commonly, but not exclusively, for an apartment on a single level (hence a ‘flat’ apartment).

In some countries, the word “unit” is a more general term referring to both apartments and rental business suites. The word ‘unit’ 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”.

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 of floors, and one or more apartments are found in the rest of the building, usually on the upper floors.

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