A row has erupted over plans to change the name of the landmark London skyscraper, the Heron Tower, to Salesforce Tower, in honour of a major tenant. Salesforce, who recently signed for an additional 50,000 sq ft of offices within the Tower, will occupy 17% of the building, and in return agreed the name change with the landlord. Complaints from other tenants in the tower mean that the proposed change of name will now have to be agreed by the City of London Corporation with a committee decision expected 17 July.
So what can tenants do to protect their addresses? Without specific lease provisions, the landlord needs the consent of the local authority to change a building name, but no permission from its tenants. A tenant would have to rely on its landlord’s wish to maintain cordial landlord and tenant relations to prevent a change of name of a smart new headquarters building to – potential nightmare – the name of an arch competitor.
To be sure, and for buildings where the name is all important, such as headquarters or buildings often visited by the public, tenants should consider taking steps to avoid the problem at the beginning of occupation. A tenant could insist on having the naming rights itself, or for the landlord to maintain a generic rather than a tenant specific name for a multi-let building. Alternatively, a tenant could ask for a landlord’s covenant not to change the name, or to consult with the tenant and to take into account the tenant’s representations before doing so.
Then at the end of the tenant’s occupation, just as important might be a positive obligation on the landlord to change the name of the building from what it is. After all, it’s not the best PR for a tenant to have its brand name associated with a building now perhaps tired and empty, and as the local authority might not permit a second building with the same name in the same locality if it might cause confusion, a tenant might be left looking out at that tired, empty and branded building from its brand new and nameless headquarters.