DEFINITION of 'Tenement'

A housing structure that has several houses or units put together, often called an apartment. The word "tenement" was used most frequently many years ago to reference housing usually inhabited by lower income families. These buildings are simple rental properties that are more practical for those unable to afford a house or for those who would like to live in an area, such as city centers, where there are no houses to purchase.


A tenement is any type of property, such as an estate or land, that is owned by one person and leased to another. Although a tenement has many units attached together under one roof, they are divided by walls to give each family or occupant his or her own space and privacy. The rental agreement usually involves a contract that specifies the period the apartment will be leased out to the renter (or tenant) and the cost of renting the property.

Tenements are picking up in popularity as housing costs rise and people move closer into the city center (or downtown) to save money on transportation, mortgage costs, house renovations and taxes.