Row of condominiums.

Understanding the Difference Between Condos, Co-ops and HOAs in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut

While condos and homeowners’ associations (“HOA”) are quite common, co-operatives are less common and often misunderstood. Many readers may be asking themselves how these three are different. While all three achieve similar goals of ensuring a quality living experience for residents and owners, the ownership structures and related peculiarities are tremendously different. Anyone looking to purchase a property should be familiar with the differences. 


A condo is a type of property where each unit is owned by an individual. In a condominium building, each unit owner is responsible for everything within their unit’s walls. However, owners maintain joint interests in areas outside their unit such as common areas, the roof, etc. This means that owners are also jointly responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of these areas. As a result, condo associations manage and maintain these common areas. Condo associations ensure that roof repairs are conducted as required, elevators are in working order, landscaping is complete, and many ensure that all other common elements are cared for. To fund these costs, condo associations charge fees to unit owners and often maintain a fund to pay for unforeseen or anticipated costs.


A co-op is a type of property where an incorporated entity owns the entire property. Unlike a condo, individuals who reside in the co-op do not actually own any specific portion of the property. Rather, they own shares (i.e., they have an ownership interest) in the corporate entity. As a result, financing the purchase of shares in a co-op can be more difficult than purchasing a condo because there is no physical property by which the co-op lender can be secured.

Like a condo association, a co-op elects a board to manage the day-to-day operations of the co-op. This board organizes and pays insurance and staff salaries, mortgage costs if the co-op has outstanding debt and all aspects of maintenance for the building, fixtures, etc. In exchange, members pay a fee to the co-op. This fee is often higher than the condo association fees as the co-op fees include insurance, property taxes, and a potentially a mortgage – fees normally paid by individual owners in a condominium.


An HOA cares for common areas among designated properties, which are members who pay HOA fees to fund the HOA. Unlike a condo, residents in an HOA do not have any ownership interest in the common areas. Rather, they own their property and are bound by HOA requirements relating to appearance, use, etc. The HOA maintains and regulates common areas, funding this activity through an HOA fee. Of the three, HOAs tend to be the least restrictive.

Condo, Co-op and HOA Lawyer in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut

At PALUMBO LAW, we represent property owners, developers, associations and co-op boards in all manners of transactional and litigation work, such as purchase and sale transactions, real estate closings, insurance claim denials, and pursuing unpaid fees/dues. If you are a property owner, developer, association or co-op board in Rhode Island, Massachusetts or Connecticut and have any questions, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.