Your lease may come with a “sign here,” or a “sign there,” or maybe no sign at all

Commercial tenants who are negotiating leases sometimes overlook the provisions on signage, being more interested in the paragraphs on rent, term, notices of default, and the like.  This photograph illustrates two issues with signage for an office tenant, one that’s important to tenants and another that’s important to landlords.

The tenant of part of this office building in suburban London is a firm of lawyers (“solicitors” in Britspeak).  The premises are inside the building.  The law firm apparently negotiated the right to identify itself above the main entrance to the building, for a sign above the door identifies the firm name, its business, and its telephone numbers.  (I’ve removed the firm’s name from the photograph.)

The tenant had to ask for that right, because the lease gives the tenant the right to occupy “the premises,” which is the actual office suite.  The front door isn’t part of the office suite and isn’t part of the “premises.”  If the landlord hadn’t granted the law firm the right to put its sign above the front door, the law firm might have had only a brass plate, or a small sign, or nothing at all at the entrance to indicate that its solicitors were inside.

Now for the landlord’s concern.  Look farther up the building, first one floor to the window with the neat message “DENTAL SURGERY,” and then to the window on the top floor with the paper signs that together spell out “SOLICITORS.”  (The observant will note that the letters are in two different sizes and that the second S is upside down.)

Landlords of modern office towers want their buildings to be attractive to onlookers.  Their form leases prohibit tenants from placing signs (and usually anything else) in the windows, and require tenants to use building-standard window shades so that the windows have a neat and uniform appearance from outside.  This building is not a modern office tower; nevertheless, the landlord may have been surprised to see its law firm tenant advertising its presence with the paper signs on the top floor.

Not everything in a lease is about the money.  Don’t let the money provisions distract you from paying at least some attention to the other clauses.