The telecommunications industry is changing at a frantic pace, with technological advances, network mergers and increasing demands on landowners in respect of mobile phone mast sites.
Many approaches are being made outside of signed lease terms. Robert Paul, head of telecoms at Strutt & Parker offers his advice.
- Operators are approaching landowners seeking to reduce rent or threatening to terminate their lease. However, there is no obligation on the landlord to accept a lower rent and the lease may not allow for early termination. Many operators are struggling to offer enough coverage to their customers, so in most cases it is unlikely they will terminate a lease.
- Your lease terms may not give operators automatic right to renew the lease. Where they are renewed, landlords are not obliged to alter the terms other than to update them, and in many cases costs should be met by the operator.
- With a number of large network mergers, operators are asking landlords to assign their lease jointly and allow shared use of the site. This is often intended to enable other mobile network operators to enjoy the benefit of the site at a minimal cost. Check the specific clauses within your lease, as these will dictate what is permissible and the payment you are entitled to.
- Responses may be required within a specific timeframe – failure to do this may weaken your position
- Existing lease terms can only be varied by agreement, so do not feel pressurised into changing them
- Make sure you know your rights – operators and their agents can be very persuasive but you need to separate the facts from the fiction.
- Telecoms is a niche market requiring specialist advice from professionals with knowledge of the industry and present market conditions, but also foresight regarding the future of the telecommunications industry.