Tom Bodley Scott
Whilst few new sites have been built in the last three years, the demand for telecom services, the explosion in demand for bandwidth and the launch of new services have created renewed interest in the development of new sites. Ensuring that negotiations for your site are handled effectively, with due regard to other market transactions and your bargaining position, is essential.
With the merger of Orange and T-Mobile and the creation of EE, the joint venture between Vodafone and O2, many site owners will have received letters either seeking rent reduction or threatening to terminate the lease. Fortunately, the market is now settling down as the operators turn their attention to upgrading sites and bringing in new technologies. However, with Airwave Solutions losing its Home Office contract to EE, further site reductions are inevitable.
To replicate the advantages that larger portfolio owners enjoy, we maintain a register of suitable sites, belonging to clients, which we are able to “offer” to operators through being in constant contact with them and their acquisition agents. By doing this we can ensure the greatest chance of success in attracting an operator, who might be seeking a lease of a site in a particular area, onto your land or property.
The 1990’s saw a rapid growth in mobile telecoms. Sites were typically held under 20 year leases. The result of this is that we are now seeing a surge in the number of leases falling for renewal. It is important to consider any lease renewal carefully and give close regard to rent levels, assignment and site sharing provisions.
It is not always possible to secure a rent review or lease renewal by negotiation. Our stance, however, is that where we feel the operator is resisting evidence for a reasonable rent or specific term, then the owner should consider recourse to arbitration or expert determination. We are experienced and successful in both procedures.
Telecom operators are protected under the Communications Act and often also the Landlord and Tenant Act. Therefore, skill is required in agreeing terms and conditions for either the relocation or removal of the apparatus ahead of any redevelopment plans. At any one time, we have several cases where, working with solicitors, we negotiate terms for Court Consent Orders – vital for giving developers certainty over timing.
We undertake formal valuations for numerous reasons: assessments for Capital Gains and/or Inheritance Tax, matrimonial settlements, development appraisals and for finance purposes. All formal valuations comply with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors rules.
Our clients include private landowners, investment companies, emergency services, manufacturers, utility companies and statutory bodies. Many of these landowners own or control several sites across the UK. The key to success in the management of a portfolio of sites is to establish and then implement sound corporate strategy and procedure. This ensures that telecom income is maximised whilst the interests of the portfolio owner and its core business are protected.
Telecom sites are subject to a raft of complex legislation coupled with the frequent debate on the question of perceived health risks. We act for clients, whether private or governmental, advising on a policy and the adoption of best practice for the siting of telecom installations.
Many operators are consolidating their network to reduce overheads resulting in significant pressure from them to reduce the rents they pay their landlords. However, with good evidence and a determined approach to negotiation, rents can still increase at review. This is particularly true for those sites leased by broadcast companies and other non-mobile telecom operators
Telecommunications companies enjoy certain permitted development rights. Whilst operators generally take great care in selecting a location, some sites may present a threat to your own property. Here we can advise on resisting such applications and working with the operator to find a more appropriate location.
The law underpinning an operator’s right to access land and remain on property is changing. Having provided evidence to the Law Commission and the Commons Committee stage in Parliament we can advise on the likely impact the proposed changes to the assessment of rent upgrading; site sharing; and the termination provisions will make to your property.