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Useful Advice If You Have A Telecom Mast Site On Your Land

If you have a mast site on your land and are approached by the Operator for either rent review purposes, or lease renewals, it is imperative that you seek legal advice to protect your position and maximise value as far as possible.

Robert Jauneika, Chartered Surveyor has been successfully working with many landlords over the past couple of years on rights surrounding the recent Electronic Communications Code. Click here to listen to Robert sharing his experiences with Tim Sedgewick, Associate Director via our H&H Group Podcast channel.

Background
Since the introduction of the ‘new’ (although now not-so-new) Electronic Communications Code in December 2017, a lack of useful case law in relation to the imposition of Code rights by Telecoms Operators on private landowners has continued to frustrate lease renewals under the new Code.

Operators continue to attempt to impose minimal rental levels on new agreements, much to the dissatisfaction of the Site Provider. Aside from the rent, the other terms of the lease are of equal importance and should not be overlooked by getting distracted solely by the rental values proposed.

Useful Rural Telecoms Tribunal Cases Start to Appear
However, one recent case has just made its way through the Tribunal and provides a little bit of clarity in an otherwise generally murky world for rural Site Providers facing lease renewal proposals from Operators. 

The case of ON Tower Ltd v JH & FW Green Ltd (2020) related to a rural mast, in a wooded area on the Dale Park Estate, in West Sussex. The site is very rural in nature and is one of the first rural site disputes to go through the Tribunal for determination.

Whilst other terms were also determined by the Tribunal, the one that will no doubt be of most interest to Site Provides and landowners is the methodology behind the Tribunal’s rent calculations.

The Tribunal determined that the basic consideration for the right for the Tenant to use and occupy the mast site area in the woodland was a nominal £100 per annum. However, they then also considered that a further £600pa was due to the Landlord for additional benefits conferred to the Tenant, such as access over the Landlord’s adjacent land and carrying out works to the Landlord’s surrounding trees. The Tribunal also decided that a further annual amount of £500 should be due to the Landlord to represent a ‘compensation’ element for general disturbance, such as access over the Landlord’s retained land and the running of on-site generators etc.

The Tribunal also ordered the Tenant to pay the Landlord’s legal fees incurred, which amounted to a not insignificant £8,000.

In summary, the Tribunal adopted a three-step calculation to arrive at their consideration figure for the mast site lease. These steps being:

  1. the alternative use value of the site;
  2. the value of additional benefits and rights granted to the Tenant, and
  3. the value of any adverse effects on the Landlord and compensation required to mitigate these adverse effects.

It is important that evidenced valuations for all these elements are prepared to justify any rents proposed.

The case has helped to demonstrate the Tribunal’s methodology behind rental valuations and will hopefully allow better negotiation between the parties moving forwards.

If you would like some expert advice and guidance, please contact Robert Jauneika direct either via  his email  or call our Durham office on 0191 370 8530.