Selecting & leasing a constituency office

Overview

There are many factors to consider when choosing a constituency office.

Here you can find advice on constituency office legal requirements, security needs, and providing a comfortable working environment. You can also get advice about how to meet your responsibilities under Health and Safety and Equality legislation.  

The House of Commons has produced further guidance on setting up a constituency office, which can be found on the Parliament secure intranet.  

This guidance is not a mandatory checklist. IPSA recognises MPs can choose their constituency office to meet specific criteria and that requirements will be different for each MP.

Scheme rules

You must inform us straightaway when a rental agreement starts, ends, is renewed, or if there are any other changes to the contract, such as the rental amount or the landlord’s payment details. [6.18]

We strongly recommend you negotiate a clause in the contract to allow you to exit the agreement with two months’ notice, in case of a change in circumstance – such as losing your seat at a general election or leaving Parliament in other circumstances. In that event, you can only claim for rent and other office costs for a two-month winding-up period after the election. Any costs after that will not be met by us unless you can demonstrate they were unavoidable. [6.19]

You are responsible for checking the terms and conditions of rental contracts, including any service charges, penalties and other clauses that may lead to unexpected costs. You should also check your liability for business rates before signing the contract. [6.17]

If the rent on a new tenancy will be claimed from the office costs budget, you can apply to us for a loan to cover the deposit due at its start. [6.22]

Repayment must be made by the earlier of:

  • one month after the tenancy’s end

  • one month after the end of the winding-up period (where you are leaving Parliament)

You will be responsible for repaying the loan amount to us in full – any deductions from the deposit will be your responsibility. [6.23]

Where a constituency office is rented from a political party or constituency association [6.20]:

  • you must provide a valuation of the market rate for the contract, prepared by a valuer regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

  • the valuation should clearly state the evidence the market rate valuation is based on

  • the rent must not exceed the market rate

The cost of the market valuation can be claimed from the office costs budget. [6.21]

If an MP shares a constituency office or surgery – for example, with another MP, or a member of the Scottish Parliament, Senedd Cymru/Welsh Parliament or the Northern Ireland Assembly – office costs may be claimed only for the appropriate proportion of the rent and other office costs.

The MP will be required to inform IPSA of the relevant proportion when registering the office. [6.27]

Using IPSA Online

The Property Registration Form allows you to register a property with IPSA.

You should use this form to register your constituency office.

  1. Note!

    To complete a Property Registration Form, open IPSA Online.

  2. Step1

    Select the Main menu tab.

  3. Step2

    Select the Forms tab on the left of the screen.

  4. Step3

    Select Property Registration Form.

    You will now be required to complete several fields with information spread over several tabs. Any field marked with a red asterisk is mandatory. You may not need to complete all tabs, these depend on the type of property you are registering.

    Any box marked with an information icon contains important information regarding the registration of your property. Please ensure you read this in each section.

  5. Step4

    The Form ID field will state [NEW] and will be automatically generated when the form is saved.

  6. Step5

    In the Form description field enter a description of what the form is for, following this convention:

    MP Name – First Line of Address – Property Type

  7. Step6

    In the MP or staff name section, in the Type of property field, press the space bar and select the type of property you wish to register.

  8. Step7

    Within the Property details section, in the Type of property field, select the drop-down arrow and select the type of property again.

  9. Step8

    Complete the address details.

  10. Step9

    If registering a Private residence, go straight to the Declaration tab.

    If registering a Home office, go straight to the Home office tab.

    If registering any other property, go to the Tenancy agreement tab.

  11. Step10

    Only complete the Home office tab if you are registering a property as a Home office.

  12. Step11

    In the Date claim to start field, select the Calendar icon and select the relevant date claims for this property will start.

  13. Step12

    To list the costs you wish to claim for, in the next section select the Add button.

  14. Step13

    In the Expense to claim field, enter a description of the expense.

  15. Step14

    In the Percentage to claim field, enter the percentage of the total cost that will be claimed.

  16. Step15

    After entering each expense on separate lines, go straight to the Declaration tab.

  17. Step16

    Only complete the Tenancy agreement tab if you are registering a Constituency office or IPSA funded accommodation.

  18. Step17

    Using the information on your lease or tenancy agreement, complete the fields in the Tenancy agreement section.

  19. Step18

    If this property is replacing a property already registered, select Yes in the Replace current property? field and complete a Property Amendment Form to inform IPSA.

  20. Step19

    In the Shared tenancy section, please select yes or no to tell us if you are sharing the tenancy and select your type of landlord.

  21. Step20

    If you require a deposit loan for the property, select the Deposit Loan tab.

  22. Step21

    Complete the fields of the Deposit Loan with details of the deposit loan you require. The date you enter should be the date you wish the deposit loan to be paid.

  23. Step22

    Select the Payee details tab.

  24. Step23

    When you are in Payee details in the Lease section, complete both fields. If you do not have a signed lease, you should submit the signed lease to us via email after submitting your Property Registration Form. Please include the form number as a reference.

  25. Step24

    If you require IPSA to pay your rent directly, complete all fields in the Direct rental payments section. If you will claim rent via reimbursement claims, go straight to the Landlord details section at the bottom of the page.

  26. Step25

    In the Payee details section, complete all fields to provide the details of who IPSA will be paying.

  27. Step26

    In the Landlord details section, select Add and enter the relevant details.

  28. Step27

    Select the Declaration tab.

  29. Step28

    When in the Declaration tab, in the Additional Information section, enter any further relevant information IPSA should be aware of.

  30. Step29

    Read the Disclaimer.

  31. Step30

    Read the Declaration carefully and make sure you have adhered to it.

  32. Step31

    Select the drop-down arrow below the Declaration and select Yes.

  33. Step32

    Select Save as draft at the bottom of the screen.

  34. Step33

    To attach a copy of your tenancy agreement and any relevant documents, select the Paperclip icon in the top-right corner of the screen.

  35. Step34

    First select Add a document and then select Property documents from the Document type drop-down.

  36. Step35

    Select Upload and choose the relevant documents from your computer’s documents.

  37. Step36

    Enter a Document title, preferably noting the first line of the address, then select Save and close the document archive.

  38. Step37

    When you are satisfied you have completed the form with all relevant details, Submit at the bottom of the screen.

  39. Step38

    A pop-up will appear informing you the form has successfully been submitted. Note down the IPZZ number for future reference.

The Property Amendment Form allows you to Inform IPSA of any changes to one of your registered properties. Changes may include:

  • amending bank details of a landlord

  • amending rent due dates

  • amending a landlord’s details

  • amending a rent amount

  • cancelling rent payments

  • submitting a lease renewal

  • suspending a rental payment

  • restarting a rental payment

  • leaving an office

  1. Note!

    To complete the Property Amendment Form, open IPSA Online.

  2. Step1

    Select the Forms tab on the left of the screen.

  3. Step2

    Select the Property Amendment Form.

  4. Step3

    The Form ID field will state [NEW] and will be automatically generated when the form is saved.

  5. Step4

    In the Form description field enter a description of what the form is for, following this convention: MP Name – Type of change – Property Type.

  6. Step5

    Select the Registered address field and press the space bar. Select the relevant address you wish to update (ACC is Accommodation and CON is Constituency).

  7. Step6

    Select the Type of change field and press the space bar. Select the type of change you wish to make from the list.

  8. Step7

    In the Change effective from field, select the Calendar icon and select the date the change is effective from.

  9. Step8

    In the Details/description field, type in the changes you wish to make to the registered property. Provide as much detail as possible so IPSA does not have to contact you for further information and hold up the processing of your request.

  10. Step9

    Select Save as draft at the bottom of the screen.

    This is an important step as the Property documents option doesn’t appear until the form has been saved as draft.

  11. Step10

    To attach a copy of any relevant documents, select the Paperclip icon in the top-right corner of the screen.

  12. Step11

    Select Add a document and select Property documents from the Document type drop-down.

  13. Step12

    Select Upload, then select the relevant documents from your computer’s documents.

  14. Step13

    Enter a Document title, preferably noting the first line of the address, then select Save and close the document archive.

  15. Step14

    When you are satisfied you have completed the form with all relevant details, Submit at the bottom of the screen.

  16. Step15

    A pop-up will appear informing you the form has successfully been submitted. Note down the IPZZ number for future reference.

Guidance

Because general elections can be called unexpectedly, ensure your lease allows you to end it at short notice. This is also the case should a member cease to be an MP for any reason.

When negotiating a lease, it is strongly recommended that you seek to include a simple break clause with a two-month notice period without any special conditions. For example, avoid using conditions such as "in the event of a general election".

IPSA provides a two-month winding-up budget to cover office rent and other necessary costs.

Failure to include a two-month break clause will mean a former MP will be liable to pay the rent for all or part of the remaining contract. In that event, it may be possible to surrender the lease to the landlord, sub-let or assign the lease to another tenant. There would, however, be significant associated costs, and professional advice may be required.

IPSA will register a property if they don't have a two-month break clause is not present, however, MPs must confirm in writing that they understand and accept their liability for costs outside the two-month winding-up period

A property solicitor may be needed to carry out title searches, advise on adverse rights affecting the property, the landlord’s proposed lease terms (which can be heavily weighted in favour of the landlord), and make any necessary amendments to the draft lease. If, for example, the landlord is discovered to be illegally subletting, the lease will be invalid, and you may be liable for other office costs such as energy bills.

It is strongly recommended that a building survey is carried out before exchanging contracts to check the state of repair and that all facilities (such as passenger lifts and air conditioning systems) are fully functioning. Once contracts have been exchanged takes place the tenant will typically become liable for the cost of repairs.

You should also consider whether to employ the services of a local property consultant to assist in searching for suitable premises and to negotiate the terms of the letting using their market knowledge. A local property consultant is more likely to secure a better financial letting package in terms of rent discount, rent-free period, and capped service charge.

When negotiating the terms of the lease remember that a two-month break clause (should a member cease to be an MP under any circumstance) is very important.

Depending upon the length of the lease, it may be possible to negotiate a rent-free period at the outset. The level of the rent-free period will vary depending on the length of the lease and the timing of landlords’ and tenants’ break options.

When negotiating for a new office, it is market practice for the key points of the lease to be set out in a Heads of Terms document, before instructing solicitors to draft the lease.

For more information on provisions set out in the Heads of Terms, visit the Constituency office glossary of terms.

The Office Costs Budget covers the cost of renting, equipping, and running constituency offices, surgeries and other activities that support MPs’ parliamentary functions.

MPs can claim the costs of more than one office if they stay within their allocated budget.  

Where MPs share an office, they must only claim for the appropriate share of costs and rent which is proportionate to their use of the shared office.

For more information on the Office Costs Budget for London and non-London constituencies, visit the Summary of 2021-22 budgets

A start-up supplement of £6,000 is also available to new MPs during the financial year in which they were elected to help set up a new office. The supplement will be added to the MP’s Office Costs Budget It is intended to cover the costs of “big ticket” items (such as computers and desks) but is not restricted to this exclusively.

MPs can rent offices from a political party or a local constituency association, but they must provide IPSA with a valuation of the market rate for the contract. This must be prepared by a valuer who is regulated by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. Any valuation provided must be clear about the evidence that has been used to produce the market rate and any rent agreed by MPs must not exceed the market rate. You can claim the cost of the valuation.

Where MPs permit other people to use any part of the constituency office, they must charge a fee that reflects the appropriate proportion of the rent and other costs. This fee must be paid to IPSA in its entirety.  

Read more about Subletting a property.

To claim the cost of renting a constituency office, MPs must register the office with IPSA by completing and submitting a Property Registration Form on IPSA Online with as much notice as possible, and in exceptional circumstances, with a minimum of two weeks before the start of the lease. 

Read more about Completing a Property Registration Form.

Constituency offices must be based in your constituency – or within 20 miles of the constituency boundary – if you wish to claim the cost of rent from IPSA. You can claim for the associated costs of a home office even if it is outside of the constituency.

When choosing an office, you should consider the location within the constituency. Ideally, the constituency office should be in a key town or village and, where possible, somewhere that can be accessed easily from all parts of the constituency.

It helps your staff and constituents if the office is within close walking distance of public transport facilities, such as bus, national rail, or tram links. It is also helpful if there are nearby public car parking facilities.

If you are planning to set up a constituency office for use only by you and your staff, you may decide to choose a less central location. You can then hold your surgeries and constituency events at local public locations such as town or community halls, libraries, or political party premises.

If you decide to set up an office in this way, consider keeping the address private for security purposes and using a Post Office box address for correspondence.

A constituency office should be accessible for you, staff members and visiting constituents.

The Equality Act 2010 requires the premises to be accessible for disabled users. Where an office is not accessible for disabled users the landlord or agent of the property has a duty to make reasonable adjustments. As an employer, MPs have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for their employees.

Where possible, premises should already be accessible to all your constituents rather than needing work to make the office accessible after you have moved in.

Where you incur additional costs as a result of making reasonable adjustments in the performance of your parliamentary functions which are attributable to a disability, whether yours or of a staff member, volunteer, job applicant or constituent visiting the office, you can claim for disability assistance from IPSA.

Contact us for further information and advice, or to make a claim setting out the nature of the disability in question and the assistance required.

You can also book a call with your Account Manager.

When choosing an office, you should consider its location and accessibility from a security perspective. You may, for example, consider renting an office in a shopping centre or a managed office block where there are existing security measures in place.

The Members Security Support Service Personal Security Advisers can advise you on choosing a secure office, together with the layout of the office. They can be contacted on 020 7219 2244 or by email safe@parliament.uk.

Where a constituency office is located on a ground floor and visible from street level, there may be additional security implications. You should consider premises that have retractable steel security window shutters to reduce the risk of break-ins.

Ground floor premises are particularly vulnerable to burglary, and from a security perspective, the use of laptops rather than desktop computers is recommended because they can be removed from the premises when the office is not occupied.

Where possible premises should have security systems in place, instead of fitting a new one and claiming the cost once the office is in use.

Constituency offices can vary in layout and there are no general rules relating to the layout. In general, a smaller rectangular office on a single floor may be better able to accommodate staff comfortably, compared to one with an irregular shape. Leasing office space on a single floor can also help to maximise floor space.

You should consider whether the office space represents good value for money. Rent, business rates, service charges, and annual running costs are typically calculated on a “pound per square foot” per annum basis. This can be used to compare the cost of different offices.

The maximum number of employees that can work permanently within the constituency office will be restricted by factors such as fire safety, fresh air provision and welfare facilities. You must comply with these regulations. You will also need to obtain the landlord’s consent where undertaking fitting out works or alterations and you should ensure you are aware of any building regulation or landlord’s restrictions before signing a lease.

The Government’s National Property Controls Civil Service Guidelines require that all civil service departments and their agencies meet an average space usage target between eight to 10 square metres per full-time equivalent (FTE).

This includes an allowance for a reception area, meeting room, walkways and kitchen facilities but excludes toilets. So, for example, an MP with four FTE staff members should only consider constituency offices that are no smaller than 32 square metres.

Some office buildings incorporate building services, such as air conditioning systems, that are designed to operate on an occupancy ratio of one person per 107 square feet / 10 square metres, which may dictate the volume of office space to be leased. The landlord or letting agent can provide advice on this.

It is recommended the office has a reception area for visiting constituents, as well as at least one private meeting room, along with a kitchen or tea point to cater for staff and guests.

To claim the cost of renting a constituency office, you must register it with IPSA.

It takes 10 working days for IPSA to fully process the form, so to support this process, please submit it as early as possible.

To register a new office please complete the Property Registration Form which can be found on IPSA Online.

Read more about Completing a Property Registration Form

IPSA can make direct payment to the landlord or the agent, if you complete and submit the Property Registration Form, along with a copy of the signed lease, and evidence of the landlord's bank details (such as an invoice or letterhead). The payments will be deducted from your Office Costs Budget.

You must inform IPSA of the start date, end date, or renewal date – as well as any changes to the contract.

You need to send IPSA a new lease before the end of the existing one. Failure to do so will result in IPSA ending the payment of rental costs the day the contract expires.

When informing IPSA of an updated or amended lease, or of any other changes during your tenancy, submit a Property Amendment Form which can also be found on IPSA Online

Read more about Completing a Property Amendment Form

Inform IPSA immediately of any major problems with the rental property such as flood or fire, so we can cancel or reduce any rental payments as soon as possible. 

If you do not inform IPSA of problems and we continue to pay rent, IPSA may need to seek reimbursement from you directly, depending on the circumstances.

We have produced a checklist that should be used when providing evidence to IPSA in support of your property registrations.

This checklist is available as a PDF download.

Read more about Completing a Property Registration Form.

Over the course of your tenancy, things can sometimes change from when you first registered the property.

To accommodate this, you can make amendments to your registered office(s). These include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Amend bank details: If there's been a change to your landlord or agent's bank account details.

  • Amend due dates: If the due date for your rental payment changes – for example, from the tenth of the month to the first.

  • Amend landlord details: If there is a new landlord or agent for your property, or if your existing one updates their details – for example, changes their email address.

  • Amend rent: If your rent amount or frequency of payment changes – for example, if they change from monthly to quarterly payments.

  • Lease renewal: To advise us if your current agreement is being renewed – either for a new fixed-term or on a rolling basis.

  • Restart payment: If we've suspended rent payments, you can use this to tell us when you'd like payments to restart.

  • Suspend payment: If you'd like us to suspend rent payments for any reason – please provide details in the form.

  • Other: This can be any other change to your property you think we should know about. Please provide as much detail as possible, and you can also get in touch via email or telephone to start a conversation.

All of these changes can be submitted using the Property Amendment Form on IPSA Online.

Read more about Completing a Property Amendment Form and about Evidence requirements to include for each change.

There are recommended security measures for all MPs, agreed by the National Police Chiefs Council and funded by IPSA.

The Parliamentary Liaison and Investigation Team advises MPs on security, and the Parliamentary Security Department (PSD) manage the contract to install the recommended security measures to MPs’ properties.

PSD recommend all MPs arrange for a security survey to be conducted at their constituency office to assess whether any of the following measures should be installed:

  • a police-monitored intruder alarm and panic button system

  • a recordable video intercom and access control system (for the safety of MPs, staff and visiting constituents, it is recommended that entry to the constituency office is controlled via a video entry system)

  • external lighting to entrances/exits

  • physical works to windows and doors (for example, upgraded locks, anti-shatter glazing film)

  • secure external mailbox or fireproof mailbag

  • lone worker devices

The Members Security Support Service will work with IPSA to fund the security measures.

They can be contacted on 020 7219 2244 or by email at safe@parliament.uk.

If the office space is available in a refurbished condition, it is typical for the tenant to be responsible for returning the property in the same condition (i.e. in a full state of repair, redecorated and re-carpeted and with the tenant’s fitting out works removed) at the expiry or earlier termination of the lease.

If the office space is available in a used or second-hand condition, check whether the landlord expects the premises to be handed back in a refurbished condition.

If the office space is not refurbished, the repairing obligations should be limited by appending a photographic Schedule of Condition to the lease.

If the building was constructed before the year 2000, ask the landlord to provide an asbestos register. If there is asbestos, the tenant must monitor the condition periodically. The advice of a building surveyor should be sought.

If the building is in a poor condition, check whether the landlord is offering a service charge cap to limit the tenant’s exposure to increasing repair or maintenance costs.

Check the office has fibre broadband – although the speed and type of broadband available can depend on the office location. MPs are entitled to three centrally provided broadband connections funded by the House of Commons for the duration of their term.

The constituency office should, as a minimum, have functional central heating. Air-conditioning or comfort cooling is desirable but is not essential. Where they are provided, you should ensure they are fully operational and performing correctly.

The constituency office should also have power and data connections. These should be accessible via a raised floor, perimeter trunking or wall-mounted power and data points. If a new data or telecoms line is required, check the lead-in period for connection with the service provider, as they can sometimes range between six and 12 weeks.

Lighting will vary depending on the age and quality of the office space. The Health and Safety Executive has issued guidance on Lighting at work.

Poor lighting can not only affect the health of people at work causing symptoms like eyestrain, migraine, and headaches but is also linked to Sick Building Syndrome in new and refurbished buildings. Symptoms of this include headaches, lethargy, irritability, and poor concentration. The landlord’s marketing materials should include information on the type of lighting fitted in their property. If not, ask the landlord or the landlord’s letting agent to confirm the type of lighting that has been fitted.

Landlords will often let office space with the presumption it is the tenant’s responsibility to fit out the space with reception area, meeting rooms, and kitchen or tea point facilities – at the tenant’s expense. Premises should, as much as possible, be already fitted out to meet your needs.

Employers have a duty under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety, and welfare of their employees at work. People in control of non-domestic premises also have a duty towards people who are not their employees but use their premises.

Once in occupation, carry out the following checks:  

Any alterations to the constituency office must comply with: 

  • the Building Regulations 2010 

  • the provisions of the lease (which can often prohibit structural alterations and require the landlord’s consent for any non-structural alterations) 

You must also be aware of your obligations, as a tenant, under the covenants of their constituency office lease and should consider taking out insurance to protect against those obligations.

We have produced a checklist that should be used when providing evidence to IPSA when making amendments to your property registration.

This checklist is available as a PDF download.

Read more about Completing a Property Amendment Form.

If you're planning to leave your office, the first step is to let us know as soon as possible.

Remember, if we make direct payments to the landlord on your behalf, we need enough notice to stop paying the rent on time.

To let us know, you can submit a Property Amendment Form and select "Cancellation" as the type of change.

Read more about the evidence requirements needed when submitting a Property Amendment Form for a cancellation.

It can take up to 10 working days to process Property Forms from the point where we have received all the required information. We don't require any evidence for a cancellation, please just provide the date you will be vacating the property.

Once we've received your cancellation, we'll contact you regarding any final rent payments owed for the property. We may ask you to confirm with your landlord that they agree with our calculation for the final rent payment. Once the landlord agrees, we'll make a one-off payment of the agreed amount and close the property.

Please note that the property will remain active on the system for 90 days beyond the end date for you to make any final claims associated with the property.

Equally, if there's been an overpayment in rent, your Account Manager will contact you about this. As the lease agreement is between the MP and the landlord, the MP is responsible for recovering any overpayments. We will, however, work with you to avoid this situation occurring, and provide support if it does.

If you incur any moving costs because of moving office, you can submit a reimbursement claim for this using the expense category "Moving fees".

Read more about Making reimbursement claims.

Finally, if you had a deposit loan at the start of your tenancy, this needs to be repaid in full within 30 days of the tenancy ending.

Your Account Manager will advise you if you have a deposit loan owing when we process your cancellation.

You can also view your outstanding deposit loans on your IPSA Online Dashboard on the report "MPS MPD Fees Charges and Deposit Loans (where due)".

Read more about Repaying IPSA & payment options.

Alienation: The ability for the office to be sub-let or for the lease to be transferred or assigned. 

Annual running costs: Rent, business rates, service charge and building insurance premium for the duration of the lease, subject to any rent-free period that can be negotiated. Where the landlord has elected the property for value-added tax, VAT will be payable on the rent and service charge. 

Capital costs: Fitting-out costs, i.e. the installation of kitchen facilities and partitioning to create a meeting room(s), office furniture, data/telecoms cabling, solicitor’s building surveyors and property consultancy fees and a rent deposit (where requested by the landlord). 

Exit costs: The obligation at the end of the lease to return the office in a full state of repair, re-carpeted, re-decorated, including the removal of the fitting out works such as partitioning and kitchen facilities. 

Legal fees: It is usual for the landlord and the tenant to each bear their legal fees. 

Re-instatement: The tenant’s obligations to maintain the premises for the duration of the lease and remove the tenant’s fitting-out works. 

Rent: Typically listed as an annual figure or as “pounds per square foot per annum”, exclusive of VAT, business rates, service charge and buildings insurance. 

Rent-free period: It may be possible to negotiate a rent-free period depending on the prevailing market conditions, the length or value of which will be influenced by the length of lease and serving of any landlord or tenant break options. 

Rent review: There may be a provision for the rent to be reviewed during the third or fifth year. 

Service charge: Where a building is multi-tenanted, typically the tenants will pay a service charge to cover the costs incurred by the landlord in repairing and maintaining the common parts and exterior of the building. Where an entire building is leased by a single tenant, the tenant may be directly liable for all the repair and maintenance costs, both internal and external, so a service charge may not apply.

Contact IPSA

To get additional support, book a call back.