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 117th Congress, leases should end on January 2, 2023, not December 31, 2022.
If you have additional questions, please contact the Administrative Counsel.
Answers to frequently asked questions are below, organized by topic:
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?
In such a case, you are strongly encouraged to use the House Lease and the District Office Attachment. It will take very little time to fill out and have it signed by the Member and the Landlord. If the Landlord does not wish to sign a lease, the Member should complete a Memorialization of No Cost Space.
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.
Are there any other office requirements I should be aware of?
District offices must have high-speed internet access available and adequate wiring (CAT5e or better) to support high-speed internet. These required amenities are listed in Section A of the District Office Lease Attachment.
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. Upon approval from the Committee on House Administration, two or more Members may share space in the district of one of the Members. 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 e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), inter-office mail (217 Ford House Office Building), or fax (202-226-0357).
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/doing-business-with-the-house/leases.
Where should I send a lease for review?
Send it via e-mail it to email@example.com, inside mail to: Administrative Counsel at 217 Ford House Office Building, or fax it to: 202-226-0357.
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. Our fax number is: 202-226-0357.
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 House security procedures, mail is delayed up to multiple weeks 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 and federal law.
How long does it take to review a lease?
We attempt to review 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 and federal law?
Administrative Counsel will let you know you’re the 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 or federal law?
Administrative Counsel will contact you with the necessary changes. You will need to relay these corrections to the Landlord and negotiate for the changes into a new version. If the changes are minor, it may be possible to 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, please scan a copy of the documents back to the Administrative Counsel (217 Ford HOB). We will perform a final review, sign the lease, and send the documents to Finance for immediate processing and payment setup.
Can we send a faxed copy of the final lease?
Yes. Original lease documents are not required, so a legible faxed or scanned set of documents is sufficient for Administrative Counsel to process the lease documents.
Does the Member need to actually sign the lease?
Yes. The lease is a binding contract between the Member in his personal capacity 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 and federal law. 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. Administrative Counsel typically completes review of standard House Leases in twenty-four (24) hours or less.
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 contact the Administrative Counsel with questions about proposed improvements, including security-related improvements.
What are some common problems of proposed District office leases?
Having reviewed nearly one thousand leases each new Congress, these are the most common lease 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.
- 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?
Unless the lease specifies otherwise or the parties amend the lease, payment of rent generally commences as of the lease start date regardless of when occupancy begins. Please contact Administrative Counsel to discuss amending a lease to reflect a different rent start date.
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.