District Office Leases
Important Notices About Office Leases
Members should endeavor to lease space through the last day of a congressional term rather than the last day of a calendar year. For the 113th Congress, leases should end on January 2, 2015, not December 31, 2014.
Answers to frequently asked questions are below organized by topic:
If you have additional questions, please contact the Administrative Counsel.
- How can I open a new District office?
- You need to search for office space in your District. A Member can rent from a private landlord; from a city, county, or state government; or from the federal government.
- If I have a District office for free (no rent), do I still need a lease?
- Yes. In such a case, you are strongly encouraged to use the House Lease and the District Office Attachment. It will take you less than five minutes to fill out and have it signed by the Member and the Landlord.
- Is there any limit on what I can spend for the monthly rental payments?
- There is no dollar limit as long as there are sufficient funds in the MRA. The lease should be the result of a bona fide, “arms-length” marketplace transaction.
- How many offices can I have in my District?
- There is no limit on the number of offices.
- Is there a limit on the size of the office?
- There is no limit on the physical size of the office.
- Can I share office space with anyone else?
- A Member can share office space with Member(s) of the U.S. Senate from the Member’s state, or with a state or local official. All expenses (such as rent and utilities) must be kept and billed separately.
- Can I lease office space from GSA?
- Yes, you can lease office space in a building managed or owned by GSA; contact your regional GSA representative.
- Does the Administrative Counsel approve GSA leases?
- A GSA Occupancy Agreement also requires prior review by the Administrative Counsel. Once the Agreement has been signed, the Member is required to forward a copy to the Administrative Counsel for the record. The monthly lease cost will be billed by GSA directly to the Finance Office and will automatically be charged to the Member's MRA.
- I’ve found space for our District office. What should I do next?
- You need to negotiate a lease with the Landlord. Make sure the Landlord has a copy of the District Office Lease Attachment since that document must become a part of the lease documents. We also have a fill-in-the-blank lease, the District Office Lease, which you can use if the Landlord does not have his/her own lease form.
- Should the Member sign the lease right away?
- No. Prior to signing a lease, the Member/ Member-Elect must submit the proposed lease, accompanied by a copy of the District Office Lease Attachment, to the Administrative Counsel for review and approval. If the proposed terms and conditions of the lease are determined to be in compliance with applicable law and House Rules and regulations, the Administrative Counsel will notify the Member/Member-Elect that (s)he may proceed with the execution of the lease. Please submit the proposed lease and District Office Lease Attachment either by inter-office mail (217 Ford House Office Building), e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), or fax (202-225-6999).
- Can I send my Landlord to this Web site so s/he understands the procedures and requirements?
- Yes, and you’re encouraged to do so. It should make the approval process go faster if (s)he reviews these guidelines. For your convenience, direct them to: www.house.gov/vendors/leases.
- Where should I send a lease for review?
- Send it via inside mail to: Lease Review at 217 Ford House Office Building.
You may also fax it to: 202-225-6999.
Or e-mail it to email@example.com.
- Can the Administrative Counsel review a faxed copy of the lease?
- Most of the time faxes are fine. Occasionally, the type is so small or the background is so dark that it is not legible. We encourage you to fax the lease to: 202-225-6999.
- Can I send it by regular or overnight mail?
- You are discouraged from doing so unless there is plenty of time before the lease begins. Due to security procedures, mail is delayed—even if sent by overnight couriers such as Federal Express or UPS.
- Why do I have to get the lease reviewed by the Administrative Counsel?
- The Administrative Counsel reviews the lease to make sure it complies with House Rules.
- How long does it take to review a lease?
- We attempt to review the leases right away. For a few months after the election, when most Member offices are submitting leases, we have dozens of leases coming into the office each day. Therefore, it may take a little longer than usual. Otherwise, we aim to have an answer back to you in a few days.
- What happens if the lease complies with House Rules?
- An attorney will let you know if your lease (and the Attachment) complies and is ready to be signed by both the Member and the Landlord.
- What happens if the lease does NOT comply with House Rules?
- We will contact you with the necessary changes. You will need to relay these corrections to your Landlord and negotiate for the changes into a new version. If the changes are minor, then s/he can just cross out or add the correction to the existing lease (both parties must initial these changes). You should then re-send the corrected lease for another review.
- What should I do with a fully executed (signed) copy of the lease?
- Once the Member and the Landlord have signed the lease and the Attachment, send the originals to the Administrative Counsel (217 Ford HOB). We will make a final review, sign the lease, and send the documents to Finance for immediate processing and payment.
- Can we send a faxed copy of the final lease?
- Once a lease is completely executed, you may fax us a copy of the lease to 202-225-6999 in order to expedite the approval process. However, you must follow-up by sending us the original document with authentic signatures.
- Does the Member need to actually sign the lease?
- Yes. The lease is actually a binding contract between the Member and the Landlord. The House of Representatives is not a party to the lease—the House only sends monthly rent payments from the Representative’s MRA if the lease is in compliance with House Rules. Because this is a personal lease, the signature of a chief of staff or District director is not permitted.
- Do I need to send a copy of the lease to Finance?
- No. Once the lease is approved, the Administrative Counsel will send a copy to Finance.
- If I use the District Office Lease Agreement, and include the District Office Lease Attachment, do I still have to send it to the Administrative Counsel?
- Yes, but the review process will be much quicker. In fact, if you follow up the fax with a call, we can often review it while on the phone with you.
- What kind of insurance should I purchase for my District office?
- None! The House of Representatives is self-insured. A Member and his/her staff have liability coverage under the Federal Tort Claims Act (”FTCA”). The Office of the General Counsel can provide you with a letter explaining this coverage if the Landlord has questions.
- Can I purchase private insurance even though covered by the FTCA?
- No. Because Members are already covered by the FTCA, additional insurance is not permitted from MRA funds.
- Can I pay for improvements in the office space?
- You can pay for certain kinds of improvements. The MRA can be used to pay for minor office repairs and cosmetic changes to the office space. For example, you may pay for installing new carpeting and painting the walls. The MRA cannot be used for capital improvements, such as repairing heating/air conditioning units, installing or removing a wall, building an addition, or installing a bathroom. Feel free to call the Administrative Counsel at 202-225-6969 with questions about proposed improvements, including security-related improvements.
- What are some common problems of proposed District office leases?
Having looked at several hundred leases over the past few years, these are the most common problems:
Security deposit – The lease cannot contain a security deposit.
Insurance – Members are covered by the FTCA, which acts as a self-insurer for Congress. (Members generally cannot use their MRA to purchase insurance for their District office.)
Indemnification – Members cannot indemnify an individual or a corporation.
Termination date – A lease cannot extend beyond the current Congress. Therefore, the ending date must be on or before January 2 of each concluding Congress.
Payment date – The House’s financial system makes payments on the 20th of the month. (Advance payment is not permissible. For example, April’s rent will be paid on April 20 – not March 20 and not April 1.)
Attachment is missing – A lease will not be approved without a signed, unaltered copy of the District Office Lease Attachment.
- What is required to break a lease?
- It depends on the terms of a lease. In many cases the lease will specify the procedure—usually requiring written notice to the Landlord 30, 60, or 90 days before the lease is to be terminated. Even then, it is advised to receive a letter from your Landlord acknowledging that the lease is ending early.
If a lease is improperly terminated, the Member could still be financially responsible for the monthly payments. You are strongly encouraged to work with the Administrative Counsel when ending a lease early.
- Can a lease be paid while I’m still negotiating the final terms?
- No. Both the lease and the Attachment must be signed, with approval from the Administrative Counsel, before any payment can be made.
- I signed the lease, then moved in a few days early (or later). What should I do?
- Send an e-mail to Chaunette.Stokes@mail.house.gov. Let us know what happened and what date you’d like to begin payment. We’ll pro-rate the amount for the number of days and make the proper payment. If you’re reducing the amount (because you had to move in late), you really should let your Landlord know, otherwise they may expect the full month’s amount.
- Can I make monthly rent payments in advance?
- No. Payments can only be made in accordance with the terms of the lease. Federal appropriations law does not permit payment of services in advance except in a few specified circumstances.
- How are payments made?
- All payments must be made by Electronic Funds Transfer (“EFT”)—the money is deposited directly into the account of the Landlord on the 20th of each month.
- Can my Landlord be paid by check?
- No. EFT is faster, cheaper, easier and safer. This is now required by the District Office Lease Attachment.
Mobile District Office Leases
- What is a Mobile District Office Lease?
- Despite the fact that it is used for office space, a Mobile District Office is normally a vehicle that is leased from automobile dealers. Therefore, the lease, the attachments, and rules to be followed are those from Vehicle Leases. The $1,000 monthly limit does not apply to mobile office leases and certain EPA restrictions may be waived. Contact the Administrative Counsel for more guidance.
Amendments, Extensions and Renewals
- I’m going to stay in the same office. Do I need to do a new lease?
- Not unless your original lease was signed many years ago. Otherwise we have a new form (just one page) that is really easy to fill out. It’s called the District Office Lease Amendment.
- Do I need the District Office Lease Attachment for an extension?
- Yes. The current Attachment has some minor changes from previous versions. Therefore, all Members and Landlords are required to read and sign this edition.