Monday, December 6, 2010

The Famed "Diplomatic Clause" in leases

Since my last post, I got several questions on the so-called "diplomatic clause" in house/apartment leases. This, folks, is simple--since many diplomats tend to stay in DC for short, rather irregular periods of time in between posts, if they choose to live outside the warm, loving embrace of Oakwood housing and rent themselves something on their own, they need to be able to get out of their leases quickly. As the uninitiated might imagine, few landlords are openly ecstatic about this state of affairs and tend to get cranky when said diplomat starts packing up his cats, African bongos and Islatic antiques after only 6.5 months in the property. Thusly, smart folks have come up with the "diplomatic lease clause" to get themselves out of such pickles. I enclose a couple of sample diplomatic clauses for your convenience:

Sample #2
Diplomatic Lease Provisions

If any tenant or their spouse is or becomes a member of Foreign Service of the Department of State, the tenant may terminate this rental contract on 30 days written notice to the landlord in any of the following conditions:
a. If the tenant receives permanent change of station orders to another area.
b. If the tenant is separated from the Foreign Service.
c. If the tenant has leased the property prior to his/her arrival and subsequently received orders of reassignment, including TDY orders for sixty days or more, to other than the local geographical area (50 mile radius).

Tenant shall not be liable for rent after the 30 day period, and the landlord agrees to release the Tenant from all obligations under the lease, including, but not limited to, any obligation to pay rent through the original termination date. Any monies paid by the Tenant as the last month’s rent is not part of the security deposit and shall be refunded, or credited and prorated to any rent due before the new date of the termination of the lease, without further notice.

If the lease was signed before this diplomatic clause was signed Landlord and Tenant agree that $1.00 paid by the Tenant to Landlord is adequate consideration for this change in the lease.

Sample #2

Diplomatic Release Clause

For active duty military personnel and government employees, it is
understood, agreed, and convenanted that if Tenant is transferred 35 miles or
more, (radius) from the location of the Premises or is prematurely and
involuntarily discharged or relieved from service/employment, Tenant shall
have the right to terminate this Lease, as provided herein, and the
termination shall not be effective until 30 days after the next rent due
date. Tenant shall deliver to Realtor/Agent/Landlord a written notice with a
copy of the Tenant's transfer or discharge orders or letter from the
appropriate supervisor, whereupon Tenant shall vacate and surrender
possession of the Premises to Landlord within said termination period. Such
notice by Tenant shall have no force or effect unless it is accompanied by
the rent for the final month of the tenancy, and a copy of Tenant's transfer
or discharge orders.

So, you can try and sneak any of these in and see how your potential landlord will stomach it. Note--if, in addition to your diplomatic lifestyle idiosyncrasies, you also own a large dog, a hairy cat, a boa, a massive Tibetan coffee table, Chinese decorative dragon, and a huge ficus, I would recommend that you first try to sneak in a clause about the flora and fauna in your life before even attempting to discuss a diplomatic escape clause. Or just go live in a hut in the Arlington forest and prepare for your next hardship post the real way! Good luck either way.

MASSIVE LEGAL DISCLAIMER--please keep in mind that the two lease clauses above do not in any way or form represent legal advice nor have they been intended to be given as such advice. They are presented here merely as a convenience and a reference point and I take ZERO responsibility for their content. You are allowed to sue Fat Cat should your landlord manage to find a loophole in the text one day but I cannot guarantee any court appearances--he is simply too fat for that.


  1. u have still not the legal flair and the touch of humor. Poor cat it is half of what it was New York, though it can terrorise any one by its sheer looks! All govt sponsored leases are one sided and never stood the test of law in my RBI days.

  2. Now that many people are being assigned to DC tours straight out of A-100, the old versions of the diplomatic clause need a bit of tweaking. I would add something to the effect that - if you are given an assignment under which you would no longer be receiving per diem (meaning a DC tour), then the lease could also be cancelled without penalty.

  3. Very good info but I just want to add that the DC area is very transient and it is relatively easier to find a landlords that will work with diplomats here. There are also several bulletin boards (livelines and clearedneighbors come to mind) where diplomats themselves advertise their own properties for rent when they are posted overseas/away from home. They obviously understand the the diplomatic clause and and are usually willing to work with the sliding per diem scale.

    Some larger rental complexes in the DC area also honor the diplomatic clause and would let you out of your lease, if you show them your valid travel orders stating that you are going overseas for work within 30 days of your departure.

  4. As a recent A-100 grad (?) I have a dip clause that would have gotten us out of the apartment had I received a DC tour. This is important for several reasons:
    1) About 10% of my class got DC tours. That's 7 people. Could have been any one of us.
    2) Like everyone else, my apartment is paid by per diem, and per diem goes away shortly after your last day of A-100
    3) When assigned to DC you must take delivery of your HHE, as I understand it. HHE from a 3 bed/2/5 bath house does not fit into a furnished 1 bedroom 700 sq. ft. apartment.

    The language is my leases is along the lines of an assignment other than the current (i.e. A-100) DC-based training assignment. A DC post = PCS.

  5. Very good information i say.Here it involves many things while we are signing any bond or any agreement as they must sophisticated build if not there will be many query rise.

  6. If you are new to managing rental properties you may not be aware of the number of different types of lease forms there are available. As you look through them you may be overwhelmed and simply tempted to choose a generic template that covers all types of rentals, however this can be a big mistake since there is a good reason what lease forms are different.

  7. I read your blog post on the diplomatic clause with great interest, thanks! Unfortunately, looking for it did not occur to me when I returned to NYC from the my last field assignment(where, by the way, I had just such a clause in my lease), and now I'm in a situation where I am about to embark on my next assignment, and shall have to beguile my multi-billion-dollar building management company to let me get out of my lease financially unharmed, somehow. Even though there are several UN people in the building, I foresee trouble, and am a bit at a loss. Has anyone found any legal recourse for such a situation?

  8. Nice post. Our company, Attache Corporate Housing, based our Diplomatic Clause on the one from the State Dept website.

    We rent properties to Foreign Service Officers very regularly. We also calculate per diem billing schedules and of course have the out clause standard. If your interested please check out We recently launched a new blog as well.