Landlords and telecom masts: don’t be left without a signal

1st October 2013

For landlords, getting their land back after leasing it to a telecoms operator is a key concern, but they may find the law surprisingly weighted against them. Jon Rowley, in the commercial property team at Ansons Solicitors sheds light on the subject.

Recovering the use of your land after leasing it to a telecoms operator is a key concern for many landowners, and rightly so. Because the law does not just protect telecoms companies with a secure tenure as part of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954, it also gives them the statutory safeguard of the Electronic Communications Code, part of the Telecommunications Act 1984.

Put simply, the Electronic Communications Code provides telecoms operators with additional security of tenure, and can give you considerable difficulty when it comes to having the equipment removed.

Under the code, when the agreement to lease the land has expired, landlords are entitled to request that any telecoms equipment is removed, but they have to do so in accordance with paragraph 21 of the code. This states that a landowner has to serve notice on the operator, requesting removal of the equipment, and allow 28 days for the operator to serve counter notice. And this is where you may need legal advice, because if by the operator decides to serve a counter notice, then you will be faced with having to get a court order in order to remove the equipment.

Even worse, when an agreement comes to an end, paragraph 5 of the code can leave a landlord with few choices over leasing their own land. In a nutshell: if the landowner will not consent to a new written agreement, the operator can use the procedure in paragraph 5 of the code to dispense with an agreement and impose the arrangement on the landowner. The operator simply gives notice to the landowner of the rights or the agreement they require. This means that if the landowner does not give the requested written agreement within 28 days of receiving the notice, the operator can simply apply to court for an order giving them the proposed right and dispense with the need for any written agreement.

Ultimately, the implication of this is that there is nothing to prevent a telecoms operator from applying to court for a new agreement whenever you attempt to exercise the right to remove the equipment. In fact, the operator could potentially remain on your property indefinitely!

The good news is that there are signs of a reform of the code on the horizon, but in the meantime, approach any telecoms agreement with caution.

For further information about the issues involved in an agreement for a telecoms mast, please contact Jon Rowley in the commercial property team, on 01543 263456 or email Ansons Solicitors has offices in Cannock and Lichfield, Staffordshire.