The data for tenure were obtained from questionnaire item H4, which was asked at all occupied housing units. All occupied housing units are classified as either owner occupied or renter occupied.
A housing unit is owner occupied if the owner or co-owner lives in the unit even if it is mortgaged or not fully paid for. The owner or co-owner must live in the unit and usually is the person listed in column 1 of the questionnaire. The unit is "Owned by you or someone in this household with a mortgage or loan" if it is being purchased with a mortgage or some other debt arrangement such as a deed of trust, trust deed, contract to purchase, land contract, or purchase agreement. The unit is also considered owned with a mortgage if it is built on leased land and there is a mortgage on the unit.
A housing unit is "Owned by you or someone in this household free and clear (without a mortgage)" if there is no mortgage or other similar debt on the house, apartment, or mobile home including units built on leased land if the unit is owned outright without a mortgage. Although owner-occupied housing units are divided between mortgaged and owned free and clear on the questionnaire, census data products containing 100-percent data show only total owner-occupied counts. More extensive mortgage information was collected on the long-form questionnaire and are shown in census products containing sample data.
All occupied housing units which are not owner occupied, whether they are rented for cash rent or occupied without payment of cash rent, are classified as renter occupied. "No cash rent" units are separately identified in the rent tabulations. Such units are generally provided free by friends or relatives or in exchange for services such as a resident manager, caretaker, minister, or tenant farmer. Housing units on military bases also are classified in the "No cash rent" category.
"Rented for cash rent" includes units in continuing care, sometimes called life care arrangements. These arrangements usually involve a contract between one or more individuals and a health services provider guaranteeing the individual shelter, usually a house or apartment, and services, such as meals or transportation to shopping or recreation.
Data on tenure have been collected since 1890. In 1970, the question on tenure also included a category for condominium and cooperative ownership. In 1980, condominium units and cooperatives were dropped from the tenure item, and since 1980, only condominium units are identified in a separate question.
For 1990, the response categories were expanded to allow the respondent to report whether the unit was owned with a mortgage or free and clear (without a mortgage). The distinction between units owned with a mortgage and units owned free and clear was added in 1990 to improve the count of owner-occupied units. Research after the 1980 census indicated some respondents did not consider their units owned if they had a mortgage.